What’s the point of elections? Seriously, think about it for a minute. In the most practical terms, elections are how we, the people select the leaders who—within the boundaries set by the Constitution—will make the laws and determine the policies by which we live. For better or worse, our system is designed to make it very difficult for one party to make significant policy changes unless it wins both the White House and majorities of both houses of Congress. This includes a very large majority in the Senate thanks to the way the filibuster operates now, which is radically different from only a generation or two ago (opponents of Medicare, for example, never seriously considered one).
Behind all the craziness going on in the House that John Boehner so desperately wants to leave is a faction of his party
fundamentally rejects our system of democracy. That system, in the words of Thomas Mann, rests on the “Madisonian constitution’s imperative for bargaining and compromise.” Mann and his collaborator Norman Ornstein—highly respected political journalists described by NPR as “renowned for their carefully nonpartisan positions”—wrote in their 2012 book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks that the Republican party, in particular in Congress, had become “an insurgent outlier—ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
This past week, Mann and Ornstein revisited the matter of Republican extremism, specifically in light of the debacle that is the House of Representatives. Their interview with Francis Wilkinson is worth reading in its entirety, but here’s one key excerpt, again from Mann:
There is no clear path out of our current distemper. The solution, like the diagnosis, must focus on the obvious but seldom acknowledged asymmetry between the parties. The Republican Party must become a conservative governing party once again and accept the assumptions and norms of our Madisonian system.
[snip] The burden is on the GOP because they are currently the major source of our political dysfunction. No happy talk about bipartisanship can obscure that reality. Unless other voices and movements arise within the Republican Party to change its character and course, our dysfunctional politics will continue.
There’s more below.