When matters are bleak one can only expect Tom Friedman to rise (or sink) to the occasion. His endorsement of the nebulous ‘politically centrist Internet alternative Americans Elect’ plumbs new depths of unblinking vacuity. Harsh? In the maestro’s own words:
Our goal is to open up what has been an anticompetitive process to people in the middle who are unsatisfied with the choices of the two parties,” said Kahlil Byrd, the C.E.O. of Americans Elect, speaking from its swank offices, financed with some serious hedge-fund money, a stone’s throw from the White House.
Adding to the fin de stupide, McConnell and Reid embrace decadence by declaring the Congress unable to function as a co-equal branch of government. Dear Reader, naturally, you might say ‘of course’. Didn’t they willingly devolve into a hapless Duma under the Warlord, with Rockefeller writing letters to his desk drawer and the like? Abandoning oversight for fealty and so on? All true. Our intrepid Remus and Romulus propose a new ‘super Congress’, a formal gang of 12 from each chamber, and each party. These Supremos would be entrusted to make the hard choices that elude the merely elected.
It’s funny how it’s exactly the same idea and language that Bob Walker tried to float around D.C. in 2005. Walker was trying to solve Bush’s dysfunction. The Administration clearly couldn’t govern, oversee or make hard choices. Walker proposed creating ‘Super Secretaries’. They would be entrusted with larger portfolios to empower coordination.
We (happily) broke D.C. code by pointing out how dim it all was. Bluntly we told Walker (in an evening bull session of 12 or so organized at the D.C. offices of a performance car company) he missed the point. The institutions are fine. Hire competent secretaries and appointees, fire the incompetent. More to the point, since the Republican/Movement apparat has spent generations attacking the efficiency of government, what can one expect when they man an administration with people who loathe functioning government in the first place. The ideology and recruitment were both proximate causes. Why not have Republicans in public embrace good government, sound non-PR-wedge issue management?
That was a lead zeppelin. A-w-k-w-a-r-d.
We weren’t invited back. Best for all involved. We’d have been twice as impatient and even less sense of lèse majesté over a congresscritter turned lobbyist. (But he’s a friend of Newt’s! Look at his clients!).
The point is that Reid and McConnell have succumbed to the same imbecility. The institutions — House and Senate — have not failed. Article I has not failed. The people in those positions are failures. The solution is not some extra-constitutional, ever more baroque organizational legerdemain. Organizational change (with incumbents staying) is passing the buck.
It’s not all Reid or even McConnell’s fault in one sense. Many of the institutional problems and people are there because of Obama. Or more precisely by Obama’s refusal to act as president. He wouldn’t stoop to use the presidency for political effect in the years before Nov. 2010 (and does so now). Remember Gibb’s laughing on national TV in August 2010 that the House might ‘go.’ Hilarious. Perhaps no one could have saved the House. We’ll leave the counterfactual stuff for Newt’s novels. Just note: Obama never tried.
We’ll close by making an observation. Political systems historically devolve into greater baroque complexity seeking ad hoc, temporary solutions not because of weakness from below but at the top. Expect more of these ‘solutions’ to come.