COVID Response as a Failure of the Two-Party Duopoly

A few weeks ago, Perry Bacon argued that the U.S. “has four political parties stuffed into a two-party system”. Bacon defined the ‘real’ parties as “Trump Republicans”, “Old Guard Republicans”, “the Center-Left Democrats” (a coalition of Never-Trumpers and moderate/conservative Democrats), and “the Left-Left Democratic Party.” While one could quibble about the precise composition and nature of Bacon’s proposed parties, Bacon identifies several problems in terms of electoral representation that cramming four parties into two creates. But Bacon neglects the problems the duopoly creates in terms of governance–and that too is a very serious problem.

Consider the Biden Administration’s COVID policy. Whether it be a stupid CDC masking policy or pretending long COVID doesn’t exist for policy making purposes, Congressional oversight, if done properly, could push the Biden administration to enact better policies. Imagine if CDC Director Walensky or NIAID Director Fauci were being grilled about long COVID:

I guarantee if reporters try to pin down Fauci, Walensky, or, for that matter, Psaki and the White House on this issue, at worst, they’ll obviously squirm, and, at best, you’ll get an interesting–which is to say, politically explosive–answer. It’s not that hard to ask ‘what percentage of vaccinated people who have breakthrough infections will contract long COVID?’ They will try to dodge and weave, throw up chaff (‘well, you’re less likely to get it if you’re vaccinated’–true, but that’s not an answer). It will be obvious they’re dodging.

…we do have the right to know what the estimates used by the U.S. government–and state and local governments too–are. Or more disconcertingly, if they’re even considering this at all (NIH is spending $1.15 billion on the problem over four years, so it’s hard to claim it doesn’t matter).

In the current duopoly, Democrats have no incentives to ask these questions, as that might weaken Biden and, by extension, Democrats. Republicans can’t be trusted to hold hearings because they’ll start asking if the microchips in the vaccine will mess up their WiFi. While Democratic Senator Tim Kaine is pushing for some legislation to deal with long COVID, he’s not pounding the administration.

But in a four party system, the Left-Left Democrats and possibly the Old Guard Republicans would see some political advantage in grilling them (the bugshitcrazytarian Trump Republicans would, at best, be useless). If we want good policy, we need to give politicians political incentives to call for it.

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2 Responses to COVID Response as a Failure of the Two-Party Duopoly

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