Gridlock: The American Way
Often as not, politicians and pundits decry gridlock as something negative. Nothing could be further from the truth, as an OpEd piece in the Wall Street Journal points out today.
In my opinion, political parties are designed to create “gridlock.” This is actually a good thing, and the framers of the U.S. Constitution hoped that checks and balances among the three branches of government would prevent silly laws.
Far too much legislation gets passed even when there is gridlock. Just to gather additional votes, lawmakers append pork to bills completely unrelated to the primary subject of the bill. The long-winded, convoluted language of most bills (yes, a lawyer is saying this!) obfuscates the intent of the drafters.
With a majority of the president’s party in both the Senate and the House, a dangerous atmosphere builds into a tempest that takes far too long to stuff back into its metaphorical teapot.
The point of having a balance of power between the executive and legislative branches is so that over-reaching legislation doesn’t get passed and signed into law. With one party effectively running these two branches, we should expect abuses of power. It matters not which party is in power. Both parties – as well as any hypothetical third party in such a position – would be unable to resist the temptation to press their agendas unchecked by other points of view.
The problem with our current tax-subsidized two-party system is that a single party can indeed obtain a majority relatively easily. Legislation can get passed, and then a supermajority isn’t as much of a hurdle when there is a veto. Politicians will tell us that this is a good thing, because “things get done.”
But is majority rule really a fair way to go about things? Fifty one percent to pass a bill means that 49% are effectively disenfranchised. A simple majority does not constitute a mandate, no matter what certain politicians may tell us. A simple majority means simply that there are a few more for something than against it.
And “getting things done” isn’t always the best thing, either. Think about how fast the USAPatriot Act was passed in the hysteria following 9/11. Think about how fast the economic bailout was passed despite the fact that its details remain poorly understood by “Joe the Plumber” as well as “Joe Six-Pack,” and – dare I suggest? – by the rank and file in Congress as well. Bad laws get passed for good reasons. Generally, getting rid of bad laws is much harder than passing a good one to begin with.