Well, perhaps we shouldn’t dismiss it without any explanation. After all, liberals appear genuinely worried about “gridlock” and inaction in Washington D.C.
“Can any president succeed in today’s political world?” asks Chris Cillizza in Monday’s Washington Post.
“Lost in the chatter about whether President Obama will win a second term in November is an even bigger — and perhaps even more important — question: Is it possible for a president — any president — to succeed in the modern world of politics?” he wrote.
He based his argument on an “unprecedented” fracturing of social media.
Stop right there. First, this demonstrates that Cillizza is no student of history.
America has always been “fractured” and fractious and filled with dissention. In the past, many (not just two) political parties competed for voters’ hearts, while thousands of partisan newspapers and pamphleteers competed for voters’ eyes and attention. By 1828, according to the New York Public Library, more than 120 newspapers were being published in that city alone.
This cacophony isn’t unprecedented or un-American; it is America.
Second, what does Cillizza count as “success”?
He seems to mean the ability to pass one-sided, partisan legislative initiatives, though he never makes it very clear.
Gridlock is good, not just because it slows down big changes, but because it’s what our Founding Fathers intended.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia understands this.
“Unless Americans can appreciate that and learn to love the separation of powers, which means learning to love the gridlock which the Framers believed would be the main protector of minorities, (we lose) the main protection,” he told a Senate judiciary committee last fall. “If a bill is about to pass that really comes down hard on some minority (and) they think it’s terribly unfair, it doesn’t take much to throw a monkey wrench into this complex system. Americans should appreciate that; they should learn to love the gridlock. It’s there so the legislation that does get out is good legislation.”
A good example is the Affordable Care Act (what even the Obama administration is now calling “Obamacare”).
You’ll recall that lawmakers passed the massive law without even reading it — and, under the direction of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, without allowing any Republican input.
The law passed, but has only become less and less popular.
Clearly, that’s a case where a little caution, a little deliberation and a little discussion would have benefited both the bill and the legislative process.
Cillizza’s complaint is nothing new; Scalia noted that it’s been around for decades.
“They talk about a dysfunctional government because there’s disagreement,” Scalia said. “And the Framers would have said, ‘Yes! That’s exactly the way we set it up. We wanted this to be power contradicting power because the main ill besetting us ... is an excess of legislation’ ... This is 1787; he didn’t know what an excess of legislation was.”
Can a president succeed? Inarguably, yes — but it depends on how we define the word.