I’m never that upset about reports of Americans’ widespread civic ignorance. The nature of our party system means that a voter can really only express a very crude kind of thumbs up or thumbs down preference at the ballot box, so it’s not clear to me how a more nuanced understanding of the world would actually effectuate itself in terms of policy change. But this is one of the reasons why I worry about the lack of accountability in our system. . . . . if things go well, then at the margin this helps incumbents. If things go poorly, then at the margin this hurts incumbents . . . That’s not necessarily ideal . . . but it seems workable and sustainable.In other words, the two-party state thrives under the conditions of public ignorance. And, as a supporter of the two-party state, Yglesias is effectively content with high levels of public ignorance because it is a condition for the reproduction of the two-party state. On this view, the more informed a voter is, the more frustrated he or she is likely to be by the forced, false choice between the Republican and Democratic parties. If things "go poorly," as Yglesias puts it, and a given voter is motivated to cast a ballot against his or her sitting representatives, the only choice within the two-party frame is to support the representative of the other major party. Needless to say, this is not considered a viable option by most eligible voters, judging from the high re-election rates of incumbents and the high level of public discontent with the Democratic and Republican parties.
Rather than cast a ballot, the wide majority of eligible voters simply opt not to vote in the wide majority of elections. Thus, in addition to public ignorance, low voter turnout is likely yet another condition for the reproduction of the reigning two-party state. Of course, there are minor reforms that would improve significantly upon the "very crude kind of thumbs up or thumbs down preference at the ballot box," such as range voting, but incumbent lawmakers are hesitant to support such reforms for obvious reasons. Interestingly, though Yglesias states that the current party system is workable and sustainable, he goes on to argue that this is not in fact the case. He concludes:
What doesn’t seem sustainable to me is the system we’ve been evolving toward in which a legislative minority is able to block action and then reap the rewards of any policy failure that results. This feature of our institutional set-up, much more than public ignorance, threatens to wreck the “market” for sound public policy.We are thus provided with a classic example of duopolist double-think. For this supporter of the two-party state, the current party system is workable and sustainable, but it is in fact neither workable nor sustainable.