American is Not UngovernableThe bold face type is mine. I showed incredible restraint. I wanted to put it in all caps and throw a slew of exclamation points at the end.
Recently, some analysts have suggested that the lack of major policy breakthroughs in the last year is due to the fact that America has become ungovernable. Ezra Klein argued that it was time to reform the filibuster because the government cannot function with it intact anymore. Tom Friedman suggested that America's "political instability" was making people abroad nervous. And Michael Cohen of Newsweek blamed "obstructionist Republicans," "spineless Democrats," and an "incoherent public" for the problem.
Nonsense. America is not ungovernable. Her President has simply not been up to the job.
Let's acknowledge that governing the United States of America is an extremely difficult task. Intentionally so. When designing our system, the Founders were faced with a dilemma. How to empower a vigorous government without endangering liberty or true republicanism? On the one hand, George III's government was effective at satisfying the will of the sovereign, but that will had become tyrannical. On the other hand, the Articles of Confederation acknowledged the rights of the states, but so much so that the federal government was incapable of solving basic problems.Our Founding Fathers knew what they were doing but somehow things got off kilter. Rather than three separate but equal branches of government, Obama acts as though the Congress and Supreme Court owe fealty to him. The president may be the head of the Executive branch but he is still an employee. The only fealty is to our Constitution.
The solution the country ultimately settled on had five important features: checks and balances so that the branches would police one another; a large republic so that majority sentiment was fleeting and not intensely felt; a Senate where the states would be equal; enumerated congressional powers to limit the scope of governmental authority; and the Bill of Rights to offer extra protection against the government.
The end result was a government that is powerful, but not infinitely so. Additionally, it is schizophrenic. It can do great things when it is of a single mind - but quite often it is not of one mind. So, to govern, our leaders need to build a broad consensus. When there is no such consensus, the most likely outcome is that the government will do nothing.This is where the president and I part company. He seems to be saying, you didn't get it the first five hundred times I explained my position, I'll explain it again. I get it. I understand the president's positions. I simply but emphatically disagree. And I am not alone.
The President's two major initiatives - cap-and-trade and health care - have failed because there was not a broad consensus to enact them. Our system is heavily biased against such proposals. That's a good thing.
It's not accurate to blame this on the Republicans. From Arlen Specter's defection to Scott Brown's swearing in, Democrats had total control over the policy-making process. The only recourse the Republicans had was the First Amendment. They used it well, but don't let it be said that the President lacked access to it. Given Mr. Obama's bully pulpit and his omnipresence on the national stage, his voice has been louder than anybody's. If Mr. Obama has lost the public debate to the beleaguered rump that is the congressional GOP, he has nobody to blame but himself.
It's not accurate to blame this on "spineless Democrats," i.e. rank-and-file legislators who balked at the various solutions offered by Mr. Obama. Moderate Democrats might have defected because they were worried about their jobs - but the point of popular elections is to link the personal interests of legislators with the interests of their constituents. It often fails to work - but in a situation where "spineless Democrats" clearly voted with their districts, it seems to have been working pretty well. One might argue that they should have shown some leadership - voted for unpopular bills because they were good for the country. But ask those thirty to forty House Democratic defectors on the health care, cap-and-trade, and jobs bills whether they thought the bills were good for the country, and you'll hear a different answer than the one Newsweek is quick to give.Exactly. If the majority of voters in district whatever hold a particular position then their representative has an obligation to advance that position. In fact, I think that may be why they are called "representatives". If I do a poor job of representing my employer I will be fired. Our elected officials should expect to play by those same rules.
No, we are not ungovernable but Obama doesn't even attempt governance. Instead he walks around with his chin up in the air while he oozes a "make it so" attitude. And it is indicative of Obama's total lack of understanding of this country, its citizens and what governing consists of.
Read the rest of Cost's post.