Gridlock and Its Causes

by Gary Hart,, 05/27/2013

There is not a lot of honest exploration of the root causes of what is now widely known as political gridlock. Most political journalism simply reiterates the fact that the legislative branch of government is virtually dysfunctional and deplores the fact.

But this did not happen by accident or in a vacuum. And it will not end until voters tire of it and replace those responsible. Throughout most of American history the U.S. government worked more or less the way it is supposed to, with occasional lurches to the left or the right.

Dysfunction in the early 21st century has its causes. A deep recession caused by deregulation of and consequent predictable speculation in the finance and housing sectors. Two extremely prolonged wars with no clear victories. Large budget deficits caused by tax cuts that failed to stimulate growth and revenues and running the wars off-budget.

This cumulative discontent produced predictable anti-government movements ironically directed not at the political forces that created these policies but at those who opposed them. The journalistic fiction of political “equivalence” is simply that — a fiction meant to avoid pinning the tail on the elephant and being accused of liberal bias.

Anyone who believes the administrations of Carter, Clinton, and Obama are liberal, let alone “socialist,” are living in a dream world. In fact, Democratic members of Congress, including many party leaders, voted for the Iraq invasion and the Bush tax cuts. Any fair assessment of both parties’ performance will show that Democrats have supported Reagan and Bush policies vastly more than Republicans now in office have supported Obama policies. In fact, it is the official, publicly-announced policy of the Republican party to oppose every Obama administration initiative, including appointment of cabinet, sub-cabinet, and judicial nominees.

If you are locked into an ideology that government is bad and ineffective, you have a stake in proving that to be the case, despite the election of a president and administration twice by substantial majorities. Whether a gridlock-committed Republican party will pay a price for opposing the will of the people remains to be seen. At the least it is a high-risk political strategy and at the most it is a rejection of majority government and jeopardization of the national interest.

There is mounting evidence that some Republican elected officials are beginning to foresee the cliff over which Tea Party representatives are headed and fear the damage, even destruction, the Republican party might suffer. It is ludicrous in the extreme for new Tea Party members to claim respect for the House and the Senate and then behave in the most disrespectful manner possible. If these radical individuals wish to alter the American form of government, juvenile behavior is hardly the way to achieve it. Anti-government forces must acknowledge that the size and shape of the national government does not change that much when Republicans are in power.

As always, it is up to the American people to decide what they want. But we must make up our minds. We cannot have a government that works by electing those who want it not to work.

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