Boredom And The Need For An Activist Congress
Two op-eds in the Wall Street Journal of February 20 answer a lot of questions about how the government in Washington is working—or not.
In the first, F. H. Buckley of the Scalia Law School makes the point that Americans get bored with their government easily and then, overturn it. This ennui prevents someone with “one big idea” from dominating the landscape for years on end. (FDR was the exception.) George H. W. Bush bored us into Bill Clinton. Michael Dukakis and Al Gore were so boring they couldn’t even get elected. Buckley even claims that John McCain played it safe and bored us beyond the ability of Sarah Palin to interest us. The ultimate evidence is the current President of the United States who ran against a truly boring candidate and won and is now boring us with continuing drama. Even the best of Hollywood scripts has to breath. No film makes that more clear than Jaws where there was humor (“I think we need a bigger boat”) between the shark attacks. Trump allows us no breathing space. It’s one nutty thing after another and the latest is the “emergency” at the southern border that he really didn’t have to declare but decided to in order to hasten the construction of his Wall.
That brings us to the second article by William A. Galston about how Congress has to take back the power of the purse and not let presidential overreach negate Congress’ ultimate Article I authority.
It is quite clear that the Founders expected Congress to decide how the government’s money was to be expended and what constitutes war and a true emergency. Here we are in the 18th year of our longest war (still really undeclared) and now the president is deciding how money authorized and appropriated by Congress for specific purposes might otherwise be used. This is simply wrong.
The government is not being run in the fashion the Constitution established and I fear the Founders would find our current state of affairs unrecognizable to them, the creators of that Constitution.
So what can be done?
I think that Buckley may be right in his hypothesis about Americans growing bored with its leaders in a sequential fashion. He postulates that our next leader will be one who will make us laugh—if such a person can be found. Actually, some of the ideas being promoted by the Democratic left strike me as laughable. They seem to strike Senator Klobuchar as laughable as well, which may be a good sign that someone has seen the light and can illuminate a pathway between principle and pragmatism and lead the Democrats to a victory over the 24/7-drama that is Trump White House.
As for Congress, it simply needs better leadership. Only Nancy Pelosi seems to be capable of elucidating a direction and a set of principles to guide governance, rejecting both the Trumpies and the Far Left of her own party. But Pelosi is not the answer to the Dems problem of finding the next Obama. Mr. Obama was a stark change from the boredom of W. Then came Trump. Now we need a new flavor of leader and that is unlikely to come from the GOP.
The Dems in Congress have to force the Republicans there to collectively resist the president’s attempts to hijack their authority. Then they need to determine who among them can counter the boredom of the Trump melodrama and even, perhaps, make us laugh. Keep your eyes on the Dems’ contest to find the next leader and see who has the best laugh lines.