by Daniel on September 21, 2004

Two more hostages murdered by Ansar-al-Islam, and a third (the Briton) likely to die tomorrow … all one can do in these circumstances is to express the deepest sympathy for the families and repeat everything John said at the time of the Nick Berg murder. We had the chance to take out Zarqawi before the war; why the hell didn’t we take it?

(Update) By which I mean two things: 1) can it really be true that it wasn’t done in order to avoid undermining the case for war; has anyone denied or shot down this theory yet? and 2) are there any other good reasons why it might not have been done, or at least attempted?

No more years? (Andrew Sullivan edition)

by John Quiggin on September 21, 2004

The idea that the forthcoming US election would be a good one to lose keeps on spreading. Here’s Andrew Sullivan

if Bush wins and heads into a real, live second Vietnam in Iraq, his party will split, the country will become even more bitterly polarized than now (especially if he’s re-elected because he’s not Kerry) and he’ll become another end-of-career Lyndon Johnson.

In my view, any rational supporter of the Republican party should hope for Bush’s defeat, since a victory will be disastrous for all concerned. A Kerry victory would be better for the United States and the world, but not necessarily for the long-term interests of the Democratic party.

Some updates over the fold

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Party oligopoly

by Henry on September 21, 2004

“Kevin”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2004_09/004738.php and “Matthew”:http://yglesias.typepad.com/matthew/2004/09/gerrymandering.html have good posts on redistricting, although like Brian, I’m a little unsure whether intra-party competition is always such a good thing (in Ireland, where we have a PR-STV system, the result is intense localism – politicians perceive their main duty as “bothering civil servants” to get favours for their constituents). There’s another problem though, that’s less often raised by smart centrist Democrats – the enormous institutional barriers that stand in the way of third parties. Ballot access rules in many states are deliberately and systematically skewed to make it difficult for third parties to gain a place on the ballot sheets. In its own way, this is every bit as anti-democratic as gerrymandering – not only does it make it more difficult for third parties to gain elected office, but it also makes the main parties less sensitive to voter dissatisfaction (voters don’t have other political alternatives that they can credibly threaten to vote for). Unlike redistricting, this is the result of a tacit oligopoly between the two main parties, and is thus, I suspect, even less susceptible to reform. This is not to say by any means that these official barriers are the only impediments to third party influence in the US, but they’re surely a significant part of the story.

Not only would I like to see left third parties better able to influence the Democrats, but I suspect it would be a good thing for American politics if there were a viable Libertarian party. Certainly, some of the financial and political excesses of the Bush administration might have been curtailed if there had been a credible likelihood of libertarian-leaning voters going elsewhere. Given all the above, I have mixed feelings when I read about “Nader’s success”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35865-2004Sep20.html in getting on the ballot in various states. I’m hugely unimpressed with him as a candidate, I don’t want him to attract votes, and I’m perfectly aware that the Republicans have probably engaged in as many dodgy manoeuvres to get him on the ballot as the Democrats have to try to get him off. Nonetheless, a small piece of me can’t help feeling happy whenever the courts adopt (as I think they should adopt) a broad and flexible standard as to who should and should not be able to get on the ballot.