Policy gridlock


It’s clear that one path to a more functional government in America is electoral reform.  Former Congressman and once independent Presidential candidate John Anderson had authored an Op-Ed in the Christian Science Monitor (September 1, 2011) that is worth a read.  It’s entitled “Tired of partisan gridlock? Reforming electoral rules gives voters real choice.”   Thanks to the blog Poli-tea for bringing it to my attention.  The blog posting on the article can be found here.

 

 

Five years ago when I started this blog it was with the conviction that the American political system is broken.  I am more convinced of this than ever and heartened that more Americans every day are finally understanding the degree which our government has become disfunctional.  I recommend highly an excellent piece in the July/August Atlantic Magazine by former Congressman Micky Edwards entitled How to Turn Republicans and Democrats Into Americans.

It contains some excellent ideas for reforming the system.  If we want to see a government that works again, it is time Americans take reform of the system seriously.  Mr. Edwards provides us with some excellent ideas.

In the week since the No Labels roll out in New York City, there has been no shortage of critics.  That’s being interpreted by most of us involved in the movement as being a good thing.  No Labels is obviously ruffling a few feathers in both ideological extremes.

I’ve already commented upon the critique by Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. in my blog posting of December 16 entitled Finding a Home in the Political Center.  His piece was entitled Where the ‘No Labels’ movement falls short.

Also weighing in from the left, from last weekend in the New York Times, was Frank Rich in an Op-ed entitled The Bipartisanship Racket.

On the right, perspectives were offered by both Rush Limbaugh on his radio show and George F. Will in an Op-ed in the Washington Post entitled The Political Fantasyland of the ‘No Labels’ movement.  It is clear that No Labels has managed to push a few buttons.  I’m glad we are.

The extremes don’t really believe we have a “dysfunctional” government in America.  Each side is only too pleased to be engaged in rugged combat with their opposite ideological enemy, firmly convinced that they are right and that their side will ultimately prevail.  It’s nonsense of course.  In the meantime, serious crises facing the country go unaddressed and Americans lose faith in their government by the day.  This can’t continue.

While No Labels may not in the end solve anything, I think we owe it a chance to work – to change the game enough to break the current deadlock.  If No Labels can indeed mobilize the “silent majority” to actively involve itself in the next few election cycles, there is every reason to believe we can halt the trend toward hyper-partisanship in both parties.  Time will tell, of course.  Count me among those that are willing to make this effort.  We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I attended the No Labels kickoff yesterday in New York City.  Stories on the event can be found in both the Washington Post (here and here) and the New York Times – the NY Times piece is more of a story on conference participant Michael Bloomberg.

It is hard to express how great the experience was for me.  The crowd was enthusiastic and the speakers almost uniformly excellent.  It was also gratifying to again be around people again with whom I felt I was in sync.  Although I’m still a registered Republican, most Republicans that I meet are far more conservative than I am.  That means that in a group of Republicans I often don’t feel very “at home” for while I agree with the Republican Party on many issues, I am finding it harder and harder to agree with the party a host of others.  I also have particular problems with the party’s apparent 2+ year “no compromise” strategy.  No compromise = Dysfunctional government.  As a country we must agree to talk and compromise.  It is the only way forward.

In the coming days, I hope I can provide links to the remarks of several of yesterday’s speakers, including New York Times columnist David Brooks. Congressmen Bob Inglis’ remarks were also especially relevant and poignant as were those of Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, NJ.  Additionally, the panel discussion led by Mika Brzezinski was particularly good.  The panel included Joe Scarborough, Senator Evan Bayh, Senator Joe Manchin and David Gergen.

In closing, let me repeat the comments that I made today to a Washington Post story entitled Can ‘No Labels’ change the tone in Washington?:

I am writing this from New York City where I yesterday attended the No Labels kickoff as a “Citizen Leader”. I have lived in Washington DC since 1987. In my 23 years in Washington I have seen the political system cease to work. I have also seen my Republican Party drift further and further to the right and the Democratic Party remain largely under the control of its liberal wing and its host of special interest groups. Neither side is is willing to compromise and the last three elections have shown an electorate punishing the party in control, yet the two parties continue to miss the point.

No Labels as a collection of mostly moderate Democrats, Republicans and Independents can change the game by applying pressure from the center of the spectrum, mostly in influencing primary elections but also in mobilizing support for candidates who take courageous stands. We can also influence redistricting processes in the states, which has the potential to enormously impact the ability of both parties to maintain their duopoly.

I will be actively involved with No Labels in Washington DC, starting with hosting a Meet Up on January 4. DC area voters interested in learning more and go to meetup.com/no labels for more information.

Please join our movement to move the country not left or right, but forward. Help end the hyper-partisan dysfunction.

Expect to hear a lot from me in the coming weeks about No Labels.  A posting on this weblog in mid-October introduced readers to the group.  To refresh, No Labels is a grassroots organization of people who believe we should “Put Labels Aside” and “Do What’s Best for America”.  We are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who are united in the belief that we do not have to give up our labels, merely put them aside to do what’s best for America.  I will be attending the national kickoff for No Labels in New York City on December 13 and will make an effort to post on the event in real time from New York.

In the last few weeks there has been growing national publicity about No Labels, including an excellent Op-ed in this mornings Washington Post by William A. Galston and David Frum entitled A no labels solution to Washington gridlock.  I recommend the piece.

Also, for those of you in Washington, DC, I am hosting a Meet Up on January 4, 2010 (at a location still to be determined) to meet and discuss No Labels.  We’ll talk about the December 13 National No Labels Kickoff in NYC and what those of us in DC can do to advance the No Labels agenda.  You can sign up for the Washington DC event here.

For those of you in other parts of the country, there are Meets Up planned in early January in a number of locales.  See the No Labels website for details.

Paul Krogman in an Op-Ed in the New York Times today entitled There Will Be Blood echoes sentiments I’ve been expressing on this weblog for the last few weeks.  We are in trouble if the Republican Party keeps true to its promises.  Deep trouble.

This piece today by Mr. Krogman, someone with whom I’ve often disagreed, is spot on.

There is a must-read story that can be found in yesterday’s New York Times by Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny entitled Democrats Outrun by a 2-Year G.O.P. Comeback Plan.  It is truly frightening.  It describes nothing short of a scorched-earth political strategy on the part of Republicans to retake the House.  It amounts to a take-no-prisoners approach that if practiced fully by both political parties removes any possibility of compromise and therefore passage of legislation that addresses any of the country’s myriad of critical needs.  Here’s an excerpt, describing two power point slides contained in a presentation to House Republicans in January 2009:

“If the goal of the majority is to govern, what is the purpose of the minority?” one slide asked.

“The purpose of the minority,” came the answer, “is to become the majority.”

If both parties adopt this strategy, what this “winning is everything” strategy means is that there will be no room for governing, unless and until one party wins by significant enough margins to govern as would a majority party under a parliamentary system.  In the U.S. this would mean that a single party would have to win either (1) the Presidency, House and Senate with filibuster-proof margins in the Senate; or (2) the House and Senate with veto-proof margins.  Otherwise in the U.S., the result will be permanent gridlock and a complete inability to do the country’s business.  It apparently means waiting until until one party consolidates enough power to do it entirely its own way.

And it seems the Republicans are well on their way to planning this as well.  As reported by Peter Baker on November 2, 2010, in a story in the New York Times entitled In Republican Victories, The Tide Turns Starkly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is quoted as saying last week that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”  We thus have a clear enunciation that the priority of the Republican minority in the U.S. Senate will not be passing legislation critically needed by this country, but rather defeating President Obama and achieving a victory that will enable Republicans to enact policy objectives without compromise.

It is hard to imagine that Democratic Party strategy in the next two years won’t mirror the obviously successful strategy of their duopolistic counterpart.  Although it has long been my observation that there there is little incentive for a minority party to compromise, the stakes have now been raised to a new level.  Where this ends is anyone’s guess as the U.S. electorate has shown a great propensity over the years to divide their government, rarely trusting one party with total control as in a parliamentary system.  For the U.S. this means serious political crisis for the foreseeable future.

It is a reason I am rapidly concluding that “we the people” need to begin thinking of ways to end the duopoly.  More on this in future postings.