Saturday, October 19, 2013

Our Political Culture Can't Be Fixed

Michael Barone has a good piece about why our politics aren't going to settle down under consensus and party cooperation.

This is an excellent piece:

America's Midcentury Moment was just that—and American politics has returned to its combative, partisan, divisive default mode. In the 1790s, Americans were divided over a world-wide war between commercial Britain and revolutionary France. Political strife was bitter. In the antebellum years, Americans were deeply split over issues from the Bank of the United States to slavery in the territories. For three generations after the Civil War, Americans North and South lived almost entirely apart from each other.

The Midcentury Moment emerged as the result of three unexpected developments, two of them unwelcome—depression, war, postwar prosperity—and was communicated through the language of an unusually vivid and unusually universal popular culture. Absent these things—and it's hard to see how they could return—our politicians aren't likely to all get along.

And remember that in that Midcentury Moment, as Barone notes, each party was truly a coalition of left and right wings, making it easier to compromise between parties that could actually talk to each other. Today's parties are left and right with mistrusted moderates closer to the moderates of the other party than the core of their own parties.

We shouldn't want the economic collapse or war that could unify us.

And we aren't about to develop a single culture of common reference.

So the only thing we can do is reduce the incentive to fight tooth and nail for control of the national government. Make the federal government less intrusive and all-powerful in domestic affairs (are you old enough to remember the retort to somebody making a mountain out of a molehill to "don't make a federal case out of this!"?)

If the stakes aren't as high, the conflict between parties that don't understand each other won't be nearly as intense.

Is this really the way we want our future go (tip to Instapundit)?

A petition on the website is calling for the Department of Justice to arrest some House Republican leaders for their roles in the government shutdown and debt ceiling debates.

The petition singles out Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), as well as “other decision-making House Republican leaders,” for the crime of “seditious conspiracy against the United States of America.”

This is what it has come to? Policy differences are treason?

Let's leave aside the question of whether it is more or less treasonous (or just stupid) to keep spending like drunken sailors than to make an effort to cut up our national credit card.

And this from the wing of a party that insisted that dissent against a lawfully declared war was Patriotic?

We can't get rid of the nuts. Reduce the stakes to go nutty. The federal government is just too damn big.

UPDATE: Given that I believe it is a fool's errand to reform an ever growing federal government, perhaps President Obama's "victory" in the government shutdown will turn out to be a Pyrrhic Victory for him:

The two-week government shutdown pushed public trust in government near record lows, with fewer than two in 10 Americans saying they trust Washington to do what is right most of the time.

But, according to a new survey by Pew Research, Americans by a two-to-one margin have a favorable view of federal workers.

The survey also found that a record-high 30 percent say they are angry at the federal government — further evidence that the brinksmanship that enveloped Washington earlier this month upset voters across the country.

If this attitude can be translated into laws that shrink the scope of our federal government and reduce the spending abilities relative to the economy over the long run, this will turn out to be the most important Republican victory any loss can be.