James Fallows writes about the absolutely insane and dysfunctional pattern our politics has taken over the last few years in light of the current battles over the budget, Obamacare and raising the debt ceiling. He begins by pointing out how unique this is:
As a matter of substance, constant-shutdown, permanent-emergency governance is so destructive that no other serious country engages in or could tolerate it.
All you need to do is read Larry Lessig’s book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It to see how corrupt the system has become. And volumes could be written about how the combination of the Tea Party movement and the post-Citizens United campaign finance system has given enormous power to small groups of angry rich people to have even more influence than they already had.
Fallows also points out that the unusual thing about this situation is that the battle is all within a single party:
This time, the fight that matters is within the Republican party, and that fight is over whether compromise itself is legitimate.** Outsiders to this struggle — the president and his administration, Democratic legislators as a group, voters or “opinion leaders” outside the generally safe districts that elected the new House majority — have essentially no leverage over the outcome. I can’t recall any situation like this in my own experience, and the only even-approximate historic parallel (with obvious differences) is the inability of Northern/free-state opinion to affect the debate within the slave-state South from the 1840s onward. Nor is there a conceivable “compromise” the Democrats could offer that would placate the other side.
As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism*** and an inability to see or describe what is going on…
This isn’t “gridlock.” It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us — and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.
That is a very important point. What we are seeing is a fight for control of the Republican party and the havoc being unleashed within that party by the Tea Party movement. It’s going exactly as I predicted when the Tea Party was created and the Republican Party quickly tried to harness its energy. The short-term gain they got — winning control of the House by electing about 90 Tea Party candidates — is now coming back to bite them by making their House caucus completely divided and uncontrollable.