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Last week, Congressional Republicans and Vice President Joe Biden came to an impasse over the debt crisis. House Majority Leader Eric Canter (R-VA) announced that he was pulling out of the negotiations over deficit-reduction because he refused to countenance tax increases. Senator Jon Kyl walked out the door with him. “We’ve reached the point where the dynamic needs to change,” Cantor said. “It is up to the president to come in and talk to the speaker. We’ve reached the end of this phase.” Biden tried to play it as a victory, even though it was a clear defeat. “As all of us at the table said at the outset, the goal of these talks was to report our findings back to our respective leaders,” Biden stated. “The next phase is in the hands of those leaders, who need to determine the scope of an agreement that can tackle the problem and attract bipartisan support. For now the talks are in abeyance as we await that guidance.”
Gridlock. Stagnation. Stalemate.
It’s a beautiful thing.
In fact, it’s exactly with the founders intended. The Constitution was designed specifically to prevent precipitous and dramatic action. As David Rivkin, a Department of Justice lawyer with the Bush Administration, writes, “The Framers achieved … stability by generally requiring a high level of consensus in support of governmental action. Accordingly, the Constitution deliberately makes achieving ‘legislative accomplishments’ difficult.”
The problem arose, however, when in the early 20th century, progressives like Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson dismissed the Constitution as archaic and obsolete, upset that it prevented enough from being done. Wilson suggested, “Justly revered as our great constitution is, it could be stripped off and thrown aside like a garment, and the nation would still stand forth clothed in the living vestment of flesh and sinew, warm with the heart- blood of one people, ready to recreate constitutions and laws.” Since then, government has done just that – stripped the Constitution off and thrown it aside like a garment. But the more we have strayed from Constitutional principles, the less we have stood forth as a people, and the more we have decayed in entrepreneurialism, manly spirit, and strength.
Both political parties have strayed from Constitutional principles. Republicans have spent as well as Democrats, embracing the “living Constitution” in order to forward their political agenda.
The American people have responded the only way we have known how: by dividing the government against itself. From 1930-1970, we had split government – meaning one party in control of the presidency, and another party in control of either the House or the Senate – just four times. From 1970 onward, we’ve had it no less than 14 times. The press can’t understand it. Why would Americans vote for Republicans in Congress and Democratic in the presidential races, or more commonly, vice versa? Why wouldn’t they embrace one party or another? Why the seeming schizophrenia?
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