Gridlock Is Good   1 comment

Back when Ross Perot ran for president, a friend new to Alaska expressed her concern that this man was getting involved in politics. “We should leave that to the politicians,” she said. “They know what they’re doing.” The younger adults of our church, all gathered in someone’s kitchen, all stared at her like she’d grown two heads. That was soooo not an Alaskan way to think of things. Apparently she didn’t realize that voting was established to give people a say in politics.

So, these days, a politicalyl naïve position is that gridlock is bad. Seriously? Apparently. The idea is that we send politicians to Congress to get things done. Compromise. If you’re the minority, just go along with the majority so that the legislation gets passed. We want progress. Of course, if you’re a voter on the minority side, you might object if your representative ignores the reason you voted for him was to represent your values, but then he compromises and moves things further from your values.

So, if you’re opposed to a legislation like, for example, the Affordable Care Act, you’ll take gridlock over it being rushed through both houses of Congress without review. Of course, when we as a nation give both houses of Congress and the presidency to one party, gridlock isn’t a problem.

What many people don’t understand is that the United States Constitution was written to create gridlock. The Framers planned it that way. They didn’t trust government. They thought government was inherently tyrannical. They wanted to keep it small and controlled by the people.

The design of the constitution was to pit faction against faction to gum up the works until there was broad consensus. If they never reached that point – all the better because that wasn’t a law the people wanted. Bills would start in the House where everyone has to stand for election every two years. So they’re going to be careful not to irritate the folks back home. Then things pass through the Senate, where they stand for election every six years and can get away with voting against the people (at the time, they were appointed by the legislature of their states and often voted accordingly. This acted as a brake on the people’s passions.  Then there’s the president who can veto any legislation. Beyond that, there’s the Supreme Court that can declare laws unconstitutional.

The framers were all about making legislation hard. In periods of gridlock, smaller legislation gets bottled up while bigger legislation gets through – at least in the past. Tax reform in the 1980s, welfare reform in the 1990s happened during times of divided leadership, but they were large and rather consensus based.

So why are we concerned with gridlock in the 21st century? Is it worse than it was in the past?

Not necessarily, but I think TV plays a huge role in convincing the public that gridlock is bad. The more strident the political opinion, the more likely the quote or sound bite are to be printed, broadcast or communicated over the Web. The loudest shouting often reaches the most ears. Keep complaining that the “other side” is creating gridlock in an environment where people expect action, and it may work to get you reelected.

But, let’s ask ourselves something honestly. Are we really helped when Congress acts in concert without gridlock? Think about the mass of legislation that swept through both houses of Congress during the first two years of the Obama administration. Many of us were very unhappy with that avalanche because we didn’t agree with much of it. At the mid-term election in 2010, the House saw the greatest turnover from one party to another since 1950, indicating that the people instinctively embrace gridlock. We like divided government if the alternative is masses of legislation we don’t approve.

Do laws make our lives better? I will submit that we’d be better off if Congress spent the next year reviewing all the old legislation and regulations and dumping anything that is too complicated, too heavy-handed, outmoded, etc. We’d be better off with FEWER laws rather than more.

One response to “Gridlock Is Good

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  1. Reblogged this on aurorawatcherak and commented:

    Thought this flash from the past was appropriate since we’re coming up on mid-terms again.


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