Some 150 years ago Darwin peered into the past and the future and wrote The Origin Of The Species. It did not change the real world but radically changed the way almost all people see the real world. And, of course, in every imaginable way man has continued to evolve. One of the strangest ways man has evolved is in the political arena.
The political evolution has been shrouded in journalists’ and historians’ revelations of good times and bad for American politics — such as, ‘it has never either been this good or bad’ — to the point that most people have given up trying figure out where we are in any evolution of politics. But, that may be a big mistake because if we fail to diagnose what we are actually doing wrong, we are bound to keep evolving in the wrong ways such as falling deeper and deeper into the hole of democratic gridlock which may turn out to be just as bad as undemocratic tyranny.
For example, how we have been dealing with the so-called cliff problems has been counterproductive to the point that at this writing, our Congress may be, despite a possible half-baked compromise a day late and a mile short, about to create a self-inflicted recession on our economy, just as that economy has begun to show real recovery after five years of travail.
Our elected legislative leaders are using (or misusing) the fruits of two basic procedural developments which have evolved in recent years:
- In the House the Republicans continue to have a controlling majority despite the fact the Democrats won a majority of the votes for all the seats because of serious misuse of gerrymandering redistricting, made worse by a virulent minority group of Republicans (the Tea Party types) who hold their leadership hostage to their single-minded demands.
- In the Senate the Republicans continue to have effective control despite the fact that the Democrats have a majority of the seats (which is a significant deviation from our founders’ insistence on majority rule) due to misuse of the filibuster rules which effectively require a 60 vote majority instead of 51 votes, and to make matters even worse the controlling party cannot even force a vote without the consent of the minority party.
Those two evolutions in our political process have also effectively diminished the traditional consequences of this fall’s presidential election in which the incumbent Democrat was reelected with an historically significant majority of the popular vote, endowing him with quite a clear mandate on several issues including taxes.
How could this have happened?
Basically, the American people have demonstrated over and over that despite all the noise (and there is a lot of it with hundreds of TV channels and an enormous social media) that they ‘get it.’
But, it now appears that the Republican congressional leadership has been seriously underestimating the common sense of ‘the people’ by playing the ridiculous game of trying to pin the tail of blame for gridlock on the Democrats in hopes that if they might succeed in shifting the blame, they might avoid challenges from within their own party to their incumbency.
That sounds to me like a ludicrous misshaped hope of personal greed for self-preservation obviously trumping what they were elected to do — which is to look after the interests of the American people not themselves.
And, that is their big mistake today because the American people, as they spoke in the November election, ‘get it’ and those Republican leaders in particular should get their due in the next election.
But, amazingly that may not happen because of the procedural problems noted above.
The result is that we are in an evolutionary whirlpool dragging us into an ever worse political morass.
That suggests to me that the time is at hand to try to break this vicious cycle we are in by slightly reshuffling the deck of political rules to break the hold of the procedural deadlock which currently embraces us and our otherwise promising future.
The three basic things that need desperately to be addressed are:
- Congressional districting
- Filibuster procedures
- Campaign finance
It may sound too ambitious to even suggest but the moment may be right to attempt to create a national consensus around this agenda. This year’s election coupled with this December’s congressional pygmy charade of ‘negotiations’ is positively clear in the common sense minds of a significant majority of Americans as just that.
What better moment could there be to strike at the pygmies while the iron is hot!!