Saturday, July 2, 2011

Is America ungovernable - or just some of it?

During the 1970's, there was talk about America being ungovernable; that the rules made efficient government an impossibility. Filibusters, two houses of congress, the Supreme court (which has more power than probably any other SC in the world) - it all added up.

First of all, if you were to ask pretty much any European with insight in American politics, they'd tell you that yes, you are ungovernable: We simply cannot understand how you can allow filibusters, which means a minority of 40 % can hold the country in an iron grip. Nor how you can allow the Supreme Court judges to have lifetime appointments, and allow them to decide what is and isn't constitutional (in Sweden, the SC lacks any such power). Why do you need both a senate and a house of representatives? That just messes things up. And an electoral college - just let whoever gets the most votes win, right?

The American political process is slow and unpredictable; sometimes the house can agree but not the senate, sometimes the president will veto a bill (veto power doesn't exist in most of Europe), and even if everything else works out, the Supreme Court can step in and undo all that work.

There can be no doubt that America is hard to govern. But is it, in its nature, ungovernable?

My answer, after giving the subject some thought, is No.

It's very simple: America has been governed since its independence in 1783, and overall been a very successful nation. So ungovernable certainly isn't the right word to describe the US itself, however, we can't just ignore that it has grown increasingly tougher to govern lately. The Republicans in congress 2009-2011 acted many times in an obstructionist way, completely unable to accept that Americans had after all elected Obama and that they had to work with him. Obama in turn had a tough time accepting that America had sent 40 republican senators back to the Senate in the 2008 election, yet, the Republicans can't just point fingers and claim that "he started it". We're supposed to be above the liberals, not at the same level as them and definitely not below them.

However, this doesn't make America ungovernable. What's ungovernable, however, are the radical whiners on both sides of the centre who are pushing politicians to do things everyone rationally can say is stupid. Like not raising the debt ceiling. My friend Pablo went through the consequences of such a move in a recent post. The Tea Party, as it is today, is certainly not governable. They're impossible to please and refuse compromise. Kind of like Daily Kos liberals, or kind of like the Obama maniacs from 2008. Everyone knew that Obama would fail to please his supporters, simply because his supporters viewed him as some kind of messiah, and no politician can ever make a good messiah. Now, many conservatives are doing the same thing with Sarah Palin. If (God forbid) she is ever elected President, she'll disappoint all of them just like Obama did.

Liberals who are so blind with hate and so loose with facts that they believe GWB was involved in 9/11, that Sarah Palin didn't give birth to Trig and that the fiscal problems can be solved simply by the proletarians fighting back against the capitalists - they are ungovernable. And everytime they manage to influence politics (by putting pressure on Democrat politicans to move to the left), America becomes a more divided country, partisan hatred gains ground and emotional politics takes over.

The problem is that the almost the same thing could be said about large parts of the Tea Party movement. Those who still, even after the release of the long-form birth certificate, believe that Obama was born in Kenya and that he is a muslim. Those who believe cutting funding from Planned Parenthood and NPR will be enough to balance the budget (they seem to think so since those cuts are all they talk about). Liberals always want to raise taxes for everyone except themselves, and Tea partiers tend to only want to cut federal programs that they don't use themselves. That's why they won't focus on social security and medicare - a few of them talk about cutting medicaid since they're mostly middle class people who don't count on having to rely on it, and they ignore the fact that medicaid is the only one of these three programs that actually have some kind of payoff (more about that in another post).

I used to be a fan of the Tea party movement. Back at Rightosphere, I described the Tea Party as "necessary extremism". They were extreme, but that was necessary to fire up the base and without them, the likes of Rudy Giuliani would have ruled the GOP (as was predicted after Obama won in 2008). While I still agree with the general goals of the Tea party, I have come to realize that many of the Tea partiers don't care at all. They're not interested in actually helping their country at all. It's not just that they don't know better, they don't even want to learn. They're just interested in obstructionism and banging their heads against the wall. They're just as emotional and irrational as the Obamaniacs from '08.

I used to admire Americans for the way you were to active in politics: You had primaries and caucuses, your presidential campaigns had armies of volonteers willing to hand out fliers and knock on doors (doesn't happen where I come from - an election campaign in Sweden is a quiet, boring thing). That's what makes American politics so interesting: The americans. Talk about discouraging to find out that so many of these people who seem to work so strongly for a cause are really just a bunch of people with anger management problems who should get a better hobby. I still like American politics (otherwise I wouldn't be posting here), but I wish you would just try be more serious.

Please. Be serious. The more people who aren't serious in their approach to politics, the harder it this country will be to govern. And the weaker it will be.

John Gustavsson


Massachusetts Conservative said...

--- The House is supposed to be the "people's house." Its primary purpose is to deal with budgeting matters. Elected representatives come from small areas, because there are so many of them. This is meant to give their constituents the ability to know them personally, and send someone to Washington who really represents them.

--- The Senate was MEANT to be appointed by state governments, to help preserve states' rights and limit federal power. Of course, there was a Constitutional Amendment made to directly elect Senators. And what a coincidence that since that Amendment was ratified, our government has grown out of control and states' rights are trampled on.

--- The electoral college was designed to keep the power of city political machinery from dominating politics.

Also, if a particular state had a low voter turnout, the electoral votes for that state remain the same. This helps guard the swaying of elections from poor weather, localized disease, and such.

--- American politics is divided because of the two party system. Some of our founding fathers warned us against parties.

John said...

I'm all for the house and the senate. And, the electoral college. I'm just explaining how we think about it.

My post was a criticism mainly to the Tea Party but also to the other extreme, the Daily Kos liberals. They are making it harder to govern and they lack every sense of proportion. I didn't mean to focus so much on your political structure.


Ohio JOE said...

I usually enjoy reading your articles John, but you have totally missed the mark on this one. What is ironic to boot, is that this is probably the first time I agree with MA.

You have built up one silly straw man after another. First of all, we all realize that the budget will not be balanced simply by cutting PP and NPR. However, this is, but a start. If the Left cannot even cut frivolous things like PP and NPR, they have shown that they are not serious about cutting at all. It was a tactical mistake on Mr. Obama's part to get the GOP to support such non-sense. By supporting such wasteful and stupid spending, GOP congressmen have used up their one silly vote and thus do not have the political capital left to vote for increasing the debt ceiling.

Anyways, you are acting like the little boy who cried wolf or Chicken little. The sky will not fall the day the debt ceiling is reached, the world will not end or crash. Spending will just be reduced (like it needs to be,) that is all. Don't be paranoid or bluff is. The people are too smart for such elitist non-sense.

Even your title is condescending. The Tea Party did not get us in this mess in the first place, those who are suppose to govern us and look after the money got us in this mess and they have already cried wolf once too much.

The balance of power, the electoral college, the different branches of government are there to protect the people from corruption and shenanigans. The system worked for many years until malcontents and incompetent characters controlled the levers of power. When I first became a citizen 7 years ago I came to a free country. Over the last few years or so, the swells have been trying to move this country to a Banana Republic. It is the government that is ungovernable, not the people.

And since you as a bitter Huckabeeite decided that you had to take another shot at Mrs. Palin, I'll deal with that too. No, Mrs. Palin will not be able to save this country by herself in part because of the serious mess we are in. However, her extreme capitalists policies are needed. What is also needed is that government officials at all levels of government support extreme capitalism. So far, it is working in Wisconsin. So we need to support people like Mr. Walker. Supporting NPR and PP is not going to fix this mess and it is not going to make us come away from our path towards a Banana Republic.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, there was a Constitutional Amendment made to directly elect Senators. And what a coincidence that since that Amendment was ratified, our government has grown out of control and states' rights are trampled on."

Learning a little history would help you see through the Tea Party histrionic pap.

The Civil War, which took place from 1861-1865, settled the states rights arguments. The 17th Amendment, granting direct election of senators, was adopted in 1913. Take a guess which amendment instituted the federal income tax. Nope it wasn't the 18th, 19th, or 20th. It was the 16th. Does 16 come before 17? Yes it does!

The other major restriction to states rights has come from the Supreme Courts case law on the Commerce Clause of the constitution. When did the court rule on the landmark case on commerce? 89 years before the 17th amendment was adopted.

Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1 (1824),[1] was a landmark decision in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the power to regulate interstate commerce was granted to Congress by the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

You fail American History.


Massachusetts Conservative said...


Fuck you. You are putting words in my mouth.

The fact is, since 1913, our rights HAVE been trampled on. It didn't ALL start there. But it accelerated. The Federal Reserve was created in 1913. Since then, the dollar has been weakened year after year. We eventually left the theory of sound money behind.

Also, during WWI, German citizens were spied on and arrested without probable cause.

In WWII Japanese citizens were detained simply for being Japanese.

Along with our rights being trampled on, so have states' rights.

Federal Cabinet positions do the jobs states were once meant to do.

And most of all, the size and scope of the federal government has grown more after 1913 than before.

I don't know why you are being so confrontational, but it doesn't reflect well on your personality.

John said...


Personally, I think the system with a house and a senate is overall good, and it's great that you have a system that protects the citizens - although it's not really doing its job at the moment.

As for the Tea Party, there's a lot of things I like about it and I supported the Tea Party candidates in 2010 both in the primaries and general. However, that doesn't change the fact that most Tea partiers don't understand that balancing the budget is going to be painful, for everyone. It will involve entitlement reform, and it's going to hurt.

Fixing a budget deficit is kind of like going to the dentist. It's not fun, but it only gets worst the longer you wait. I don't think the Tea Party realizes this. And the idolizing some of them do when it comes to Sarah Palin is just sickening (remember that Sarah Palin song?).

The ones who were supposed to govern failed you, that's true. But if you don't get yourself together and realize that compromise and dialogue is the only way to solve things, you'll fail as well.

As for PP and NPR, I'm not a big fan of either. But the amount of attention they got was just silly. Attention should have been on entitlement reform, in particular of social security and medicare.


Ohio JOE said...

"It's not fun, but it only gets worst the longer you wait. I don't think the Tea Party realizes this." In fact, the TEA Party does realize this. This is why it wants to cut spending rather than just keep on raising the debt limit.

"Attention should have been on entitlement reform, in particular of social security and medicare." It was. Further, Mr. Bush tried to address this issue, but the Senate blocked it. The Democrats did not want to compromise. Again, PP and NPR are small in terms of money, but if little steps like this cannot even be made, then there is little point in talking compromise.

Finally, with respect, I do not remember a song about Mrs. Palin.

Right Wingnut said...

I also remember a corny song by some Mike Huckabee supporters, but I don't get worked up over stuff like that.

John, Instead of getting up on your soapbox as you are want to do, you should focus more on your part of the world.

Ohio JOE said...

"I also remember a corny song by some Mike Huckabee supporters," It had a catchy tune.