I’ve been feeling it for a while now — Republicans and Democrats are locked into a viscous cycle of obstructionism and the defacto two party system is failing us when it comes to creating progressive political outcomes.
What we’ve got here is the failure to communicate…
The politics of obstructionism has a long political history in this country but we can look to the “Gingrich Revolution” during the Clinton presidency to see its modern roots. As Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich pretty much started the escalation of obstruction that we are stuck with today. For example, it was during his time in power that shutting down the government became a viable political tool.
Fast forward to the Obama years and we saw obstruction taken to a whole other level with the rise of the Tea Party and a Republican platform centered around being against anything proposed by the Obama administration. If it sounds like I’m picking on the Republicans, I’m not. The Democrats, having just lost the Presidency, are now actively defining themselves as the “Party of No”. Taking a page out of the obstructionism textbook is a whole lot easier than actually standing for something. Newt would be proud.
The Big Loser…
So who wins and who loses in the politics of obstructionism? Politically speaking both parties win.
The obstructors halt progress and generally make things so bad that they have a reform story to campaign on in the next election. Not wanting to waste their time in power, the “obstructees” expand whatever powers they have and then campaign on having their hands tied by the other party. Recent Presidents have been masters at this.
However, the big loser is the American people. While both parties play the game, very little happens to move the country forward. In fact, a disproportionate amount of time is spent trying un-do the acts of the prior President or Congress. Sound familiar?
Meanwhile, our country’s infrastructure ages, the healthcare crisis deepens, and the American dream slips further out of sight in our collective rearview mirror.
Return to Compromise…
The “all or nothing” politics of obstruction are not what the framers of our Constitution had in mind. I’ll go as far as to say that it has introduced a “bug” into our system that has lead to a vicious loop — which continues to consume our precious time and resources with each iteration.
To break the loop we need to break the two party system. As long as there is no viable third party to choose, we will keep rewarding the politics of obstruction by re-electing politicians who perpetuate the cycle. However, with a viable third party in the mix, Republicans and Democrats would both be forced to return to compromise as the framers intended because obstruction by the numbers in Congress would no longer be possible (more on this soon in another post).
With the obstruction cycle broken, Candidates of all parties would have to stand for something instead of simply against the other party. Imagine that.