Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A House Divided

(from do-see-this-as-a-good-thing-or-a-bad-t/question-3363519/?page=2&link=ibaf&q=&imgurl=

Perhaps, and solely in my belief, one of the great conservative minds among the news pundits is George Wills.  That is unless he suddenly goes off on one of those extreme points that he some times does.  Nevertheless, he is one very smart, well versed man and few understand history as he does.  I would never presume to match brains with him. There is something that he has stated a number of times about the current state of congress.

On  any number of occasions he has stated that Congress was purposely designed to be divided -- adversarial in nature.  While I have little doubt that it was to supposed to be adversarial by nature, I don't think that our framers ever intended it to become inoperative.  First off, the division was by setting up three distinct sections of government: executive, legislative and judicial.  Then dividing the legislative into two houses for the purpose of debate.   Both houses are clearly set like the houses of Parliament - House of Lords and House of Commons. Our two houses were also designed so that no state could rule by evenly dividing the Senate into only two representatives each and giving them the longest term.  The idea of adversarial houses and branches were to ensure checks and balances.  At no point, however, does the Constitution  discuss that any branch should be divided by political parties.

The nature of the adversarial debate in either of the houses or between the branches was never intended to be more than that which would cause our leaders to think about what they  were doing and compromise as needed.  At no point did our founding fathers intend for congress to become so dysfunctional that they can barely operate.  They've signed non-constitutional pledges, they've gerrymandered, they've done just about everything they can and did it not for the people, but so they can keep their jobs, become the most powerful at any cost, even to the point of suppressing the vote.  Our founding fathers, in fact, worried about the dangers of having a two party system rather than a multiple or single one.

John Adams wrote in a letter to Jonathan Jackson:,"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution." George Washington said, "However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion."

I part ways with Mr. Wills on his belief that the houses are operating the way they were intended.  They were never intended not to operate, not to allow compromise, to become more about whose in power than why they are in power.  Ronald Reagan once said that the founding fathers did not conceive of those in congress becoming a profession. They "envisioned a fellow serving a couple of hitches and then eagerly looking forward to getting back to the farm." So no, the house is not operating as it should.  The adversarial idea does not mean absolute, obstinate unwillingness to work together.

Sadly, when the elections roll around, people will return these folks back because too many think it's not their representative who is the problem, but someone else's problem.  With the new gerrymandering, the days of swing districts are gone, as well.  Add to this primaries which allow only the loyal base following to put forward a candidate, it is unlikely much in Washington will change.  Adding to this is the idea of equity in the press.  Until the press starts calling the baloney and lies that politicians use for their base and the other stories they use for those of us who are not on the fringe, it will also continue.

"A house divided cannot stand," said Abraham Lincoln. Our house needs a good cleaning and we need to send more than a few back home to the farm.

It is time we remember that “it is the people who control the Government, not the Government the people.” - Winston Churchill