Wednesday, September 14, 2005

De Rød-Grønne

I'm supposed to be researching the Red-Green Party's welfare policy (Communist and environmental, get it?) but they're so small and new that there's nothing in English about it on the web. I can read enough Danish to know which pages have everything I need to know, but not enough to get through it in less than three hours. And of course the Danish language isn't important enough to be on online translation sites. The party headquarters are only a block away, so I ended up calling them and asking if I could come over tomorrow morning before my presentation so they could tell me about it.

The political machine is a lot smaller and more accessible in general here - if you call your representative, you actually speak to them instead of getting a secretary who will tally you as being pro or con on some measure. Until recently government ministers didn't even have their own secretaries - they shared. And no political ads are allowed on TV, so Danish politicians spend a fraction of what ours do on campaigning. My politics professor used to be an MP and the minister of transportation, so it's weird hearing him discuss something like how many seats the Social Democrats lost to the Liberals in the last election and then throw in "One of them was mine."

I'm enjoying the constant "Wait...wha?" factor of a different governmental system. Like reading an analysis of why taxes are so high: politicians are afraid to cut spending, because people here would rather pay more in taxes and get better programs. So if you raise taxes and offer, say, better care for the elderly, the voters are more likely to keep you in office. This made my head spin. Also, after two weeks I think I finally understand the electoral system: parliament seats are given out proportionately to the number of people who vote for each party. So in US you could have 49% of the electorate vote for third-party candidates for congress, but if they were spread out enough they might never get a majority in any district and thus not get a single third-party congress member. Over here if 49% of the votes go to candidates of a certain party, that party gets 49% of the seats. (There's a complicated system for making sure that you get the right proportions but still have politicians representing their own districts, but that took me two weeks to figure out so I won't go into it.) My one reservation on this is that I don't like equating individual politicians with their party, but I guess when you have 7 parties you can find one that represents you better than a politician could in the US.

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