Mark Rutte’s resignation, and a fundamentally different outlook on democracy

In January 2021, Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, and his entire cabinet resigned because of a bureaucratic scandal: the state child welfare agency falsely accused thousands of parents of committing benefits fraud.

A similar scandal in America, even after adjusting for its much larger population, would never lead the President and his cabinet to resign. At most, some high-ranking official might be fired and become the center of a negative media frenzy. I’m not certain it would even become a major scandal, considering the pervasive bureaucratic incompetence across the nation against which it would have to stand out.

This highlights a fundamental difference between the two countries’ outlook on democracy. In the Netherlands, politicians and their parties are generally viewed as subordinate to the political system itself, so they’re willing to be replaced if something goes wrong, and their constituents are willing to let them be replaced. In America, our politicians and especially our parties are generally viewed as being equal or superordinate to the political system, so they stay in power no matter how horrible their mismanagement, and their supporters continue to elect them.

I think this is just one more manifestation of our irreconcilable two-party system.

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