Rather than viewing the current hyper-partisan atmosphere in DC as not based in reality but being just politics, what if both sides are genuinely concerned about what they see as breakdown in law and governance? To oversimplifyÂ a bit, the left howls about no rule of law against banksters. The right thunders against overreaching federal government policies. Partisans on both sides attack the president (if he is in the other party) for vastly overstepping his authority and ruling by decree. And on this, the partisans are usually correct.
Matt Ygelesias says maybe both sides are right and what we are seeing is the beginnings of a genuine constitutional crisis, which if unchecked, could led to the downfall of our democracy.
Rather than everyone being wrong about the state of American politics, maybe everyone is right
Since the president and Congress are elected by the people, they can both claim to speak for the people
This is a core issue. What happens when Congress and the president have apparently irreconcilable views? The Constitution provides no way to rectify this, so what you get is gridlock and increasing anger on all sides.
The breakdown of American constitutional democracy is a contrarian view. But it’s nothing more than the view that rather than everyone being wrong about the state of American politics, maybe everyone is right. Maybe Bush and Obama are dangerously exceeding norms of executive authority. Maybe legislative compromise really has broken down in an alarming way. And maybe the reason these complaints persist across different administrations and congresses led by members of different parties is that American politics is breaking down.
Our government is no longer responsive to the people. It’s bought and paid for by monied interests, and is highly corrupt. There is no center or commonality of interests. Rather, it’s grab whatever you can.
As dysfunctional as American government may seem today, we’ve actually been lucky. No other presidential system has gone as long as ours without a major breakdown of the constitutional order. But the factors underlying that stability — first non-ideological parties and then non-disciplined ones — are gone. And it’s worth considering the possibility that with them, so too has gone the American exception to the rule of presidential breakdown. If we seem to be unsustainably lurching from crisis to crisis, it’s because we are unsustainably lurching from crisis to crisis.
The only problem with this assessment is that it falls into the false equivalence trap. It is a logical fallacy. We on the left appropriately criticized the Bush regime for things they were actually doing, like blatantly lying to the country to trick us into the Iraq War, trying to put Social Security in the stock market, further deregulation of the financial sector (until the Great Recession hit), giving massive tax cuts to the rich, turning a surplus into a massive deficit, outsourcing good jobs to maximize corporate profits, scaling back environmental protections, putting incompetent cronies in charge of critical agencies as a reward for partisan loyalty (Thanks Brownie for that Hurricane Katrina response!), launching a covert torture program then denying it, persecuting political opponents, the back-door draft, launching warrantless wiretaps of Americans and trying to intimidate journalists, selling off public lands to fossil fuel corporations, abandoning our allies in the world, etc.
The rabid right wing literally started attacking Obama the minute he was taking the oath of office. They bash him for literally anything and everything he does or doesn’t do. They attack him for things they were silent on when Bush did far worse. They blast him for over wacky conspiracy theories that aren’t even close to being based in any fact. “Muslim, marxist, atheist, racist, socialist, communist, kenyan-born, etc. etc. etc.” Very few attacks by the right wing have any sort of basis in reality.
So don’t fall for the “both sides are the same” line. It’s absurd.