It was a pain to watch the health care debate on YouTube earlier this week: Washington is stuck, and the fight about Barack Obama’s attempt to reform a system that has been broken for too long is a just a symbol for an underlying problem.
So who is to blame for the mentality of “nothing goes“ in D.C.? There are plenty of suspects: First of all, timing in Washington is always bad – basically, the President should get things done during the first year in office. This was something Mr. Obama has not achieved, as he has relied too much on the majority to include the then very weak GOP. Democrats felt to certain to keep Massachusetts and did not show discipline to press ahead with health care legislation last fall, so the party itself can be blamed for the return of partisanship and the way the health care plans got locked into the desks on the Hill.
At the same time, the Republicans have been doing nothing but to play the refuseniks: With a minority as destructive as this, bipartisanship seems like a dream from different times. The need to have a 60-seat-majority to override the filibuster has done its part to worsen the situation: What once was a rule to have the minority’s voice be heard has now become a weapon in politicking – Republicans and Democrats have both been guilty of the abuse of this instrument over the last couple of years.
Finally, the Tea Party movement has brought back the very worst form of populism into American politics (not that it was gone…): If the GOP thinks this will help the party to stay relevant, they might actually be right. The price is a Congress that will become a synonym for malfunction for years. The only hope: There have been many stalemates in the last couple of decades – in the end, some things got done. But to tackle an important issue like health care, campaign reform or CO2 emissions, Washington has become too much of a caricature of a functioning political system.