From “gridlock” to “disaster politics”

The word “gridlock” is commonly used to describe politics as usual in Washington. It signals not only an inability to compromise, but also an inability to govern. Democrats and Republicans alike are equally to blame for this gridlock, and sometimes this is good and sometimes this is bad. Sometimes it is good when an opposition party stands in the way of bad legislation or policy demanded by the majority party, and sometimes it is bad when a majority party cannot get good legislation passed because the opposition is intransigent. The accumulative effect of this mixed process is political turnover. When a majority party either supports bad ideas or cannot come up with any good ones, the electorate votes a majority party out of office and allows the opposition party to govern.

Given enough party rancor and time, gridlock has become the norm of governance here. Although American politics is clearly at this point, we are not the only democratic nation, by any means, to experience deep divisions leading to almost complete lack of governance. Belgium, Italy, Japan, Greece, Spain and many other countries have also experienced, are experiencing, the same climate of politics everywhere. Fear, uncertainty, worn out ideas, lack of civility and tolerance, and other generally shameful behaviors. Anthony Weiner’s of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your shame!

Today, the U.S. government faces a possible shut down, while the agency in charge of its emergency preparedness (for both natural disasters and terrorism) faces possible insolvency because political gridlock has become a tool for forcing political turnovers. The issue is not complicated. Although U.S. debt is unsustainable and must be dealt with over the long term, this important goal is not achieved in the short term by the opposition party cutting federal spending to areas such as FEMA. Indeed, this is the only play we are seeing from the Republican Party, who’s apparent strategy for bold-thinking governance, is to enforce a debt limit by bleeding the government dry. The mantra to “cut spending!” and “don’t raise taxes!” literally does not make sense because it spells “disaster politics” in capital letters.

Cutting spending that is vital to the upkeep of a well-run government, and essential to protect the security and property interests of its citizens, while forbidding tax reform is a platform that moves America beyond gridlock and into some weird new dimension. The new dimension that is quickly becoming apparent is that lots of people out there, whether knowingly or not, want America to fail. They clearly want a government to fail, and right-wing conspiracies about Obama’s citizenship notwithstanding, this puts them in the position of wanting us all to fail. This is the message of the opposition party, and it is asking America to be put back in charge of gigantic mess that it primarily, though by no means exclusively, created.

The time for gridlock is over. If America wants to avoid disaster politics, it would do well to steer clear of an opposition party who wants government to fail. ::KPS::