Advice for Those Frustrated by Congressional Dysfunction

“I don’t care which party you vote for, but please stop voting for people who have no desire or intention to govern.” That’s a tweet I saw today, and wholeheartedly agree with. I assume the tweet primarily refers to the GOP members of Congress who oppose Kevin McCarthy for Speaker of the House. I would actually broaden this out to any politicians that enabled this group, as well as politicians preferred nothing to making any compromise or those who preferred nothing, rather than giving any political victory to the other side.

These politicians are the problem and primary source of the dysfunction. Here’s a message to those who have a low opinion of Congress because of gridlock:

Vote these politicians out of office–even if they’re from your party or support the policies you favor. The U.S. Congress won’t work if politicians a) want their way or nothing at all, and b) treat governing as a reality TV show, riling up their base and trolling the opposition in the process–while not actually solving real problems. Voters should also vote out politicians who choose to obstruct Congress, as a strategy to hurt the opposition, and foster the impression that government is the problem.

Instead, citizens should vote for politicians willing to negotiate in good faith to solve problems. This involves making concession to this other side, which can be painful, in order to get things one really wants. The end result is likely small steps taken to address a real problem, something modest and flawed. But I believe this is the way the Founders designed the system.

The idea that a politician or party can get their way simply by being tough, and forcing opponents to capitulate is antithetical to the American way. The system prevents this approach because it’s dangerous and destabilizing. This would give a politician or party too much power–which would lead to an abuse of power–i.e., tyranny. Additionally, this type of approach would likely lead to violence. Human beings resent when something is shoved down their throats. When that occurs in politics, and there is really no peaceful means to reject or correct this, I believe people will turn to violence.

The American system provides a way to avoid this by creating structures that force politicians to negotiate and compromise (but this assumes that the politicians genuinely want to solve problems and will do so in good faith). Politicians who fail to understand or reject this approach do not belong in Congress.

One last thing. This is not a “both sides” matter. The Democrats have politicians like this, but my sense is that the majority of Democrats keep these politicians in check; they seem to concede or defer to those who compromise. (One example: Democrats who said that they preferred no health care reform if they couldn’t have the public option gave in or lost that argument.)

On the Republican, at least since Obama’s presidency, these extremists have had a huge influence on the way the party operates. See this thread for examples

One thought on “Advice for Those Frustrated by Congressional Dysfunction

  1. Interesting and somewhat encouraging poll today, related to this topic:

    Initially, I was happy to see the high numbers for compromise. On the other hand, a part of me feels like numbers advocating for sticking to one’s principles no matter what, might be a bit too high.

    Actually, I think it’s not really an either/or question. There are times when I do think a politician should stick to their principles, no matter what. In my view, this should be relatively rare. For many issues compromise is not only acceptable, but necessary to address serious problems and improve the country.

    Someone also pointed out another potential problem with the poll question. Participants could interpret “compromise to get things done” to mean get what I want, without really accepting things that I hate. The numbers supporting compromise may go down if the question were framed in this way. However, being able to concede to things one hates (but getting things one really wants) seems critical to making progress, especially in the most contentious issues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *