Author Topic: Blame the Shutdown on James Madison  (Read 723 times)

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Offline Bigun

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Blame the Shutdown on James Madison
« on: October 05, 2013, 01:55:18 PM »
 October 4, 2013 12:00 AM
Blame the Shutdown on James Madison
Gridlock is a feature, not a bug, of our system of separated powers.
By  Michael Barone

The problem was caused by James Madison. And by the 39 other men who signed the Constitution in 1787.

The problem, of course, is the government shutdown. It was caused because the Framers of the Constitution wisely provided for separation of powers among the three branches of government. The president would faithfully execute the laws and be commander-in-chief of the military, but both houses of Congress would have to approve every penny the government could spend.

In the early republic, it was widely assumed that presidents could veto legislation only if it was deemed unconstitutional. Disagreeing with policy was not enough. That changed after Andrew Jackson vetoed the recharter of the Second Bank of the United States in 1832 and was promptly reelected. Jackson claimed to act on constitutional grounds, but it came to be understood that presidents could veto laws they disagreed with. That understanding, together with the constitutional structure, imposes something like a duty of consultation between the president and members of Congress. Otherwise — and you may have heard about this — the government would have to shut down.

Barack Obama hasn’t engaged in much consultation this summer and fall. He has announced he won’t negotiate with House speaker John Boehner. His defenders note that Boehner has stated publicly he won’t negotiate with the president. Boehner believes Obama unfairly upped the ante in their “grand bargain” negotiations in August 2011. As a practical matter, it’s Obama’s refusal to negotiate that matters. A member of Congress can’t get time with the president or his top aides on demand. A president can always get through to a member of Congress — as Obama did, finally, Monday night for a conversation described as being “less than ten minutes.”

Astonishingly, Obama said in a prepared statement that no president had negotiated ancillary issues with Congress when a shutdown was threatened. Four Pinocchios, said Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler. The Post’s Wonkblog helpfully listed 17 government shutdowns since the late 1970s. Almost all involved legislative-executive disagreement over ancillary issues.

The bulk of pundit opinion, on the right as well as the left, holds that House Republicans blundered by attaching Senator Ted Cruz’s defund-Obamacare amendment to the continuing resolution funding the government. Democrats will never accept that, they say. And voters will blame Republicans for shutting down government.

Many pundits also say House Republicans’ amendment delaying Obamacare was foolish for the same reason, although “delay” polls much better than “defund.” Cruz argues that once people receive Obamacare subsidies, they will be hooked and support the program. It’s an argument akin to Mitt Romney’s 47 percent remarks. But beneficiaries of government don’t necessarily vote Democratic. The state with the highest percentage of residents who receive disability insurance, West Virginia, voted 62 percent for Romney.

Moreover, it’s not clear that Obamacare subsidies will be that generous or visible. On Tuesday, the day the health exchanges were supposed to open, many Obamacare websites were giving error messages.

Divided government is not exactly a novel thing. We’ve had a White House controlled by one party and at least one house of Congress held by the other for 32 of the last 45 years — 70 percent of the time. It’s the default mode, not an exception. The current divisions result from what I call volitional migration in my just-published book, Shaping Our Nation: How Surges of Migration Have Transformed America and Its Politics. Americans have been moving to places they consider culturally congenial.

Democratic voters — blacks, Hispanics, gentry liberals — are heavily clustered in certain central cities. They give Democrats an advantage in the Electoral College. Republican voters are more evenly spread around beyond these Democratic bastions. That gives Republicans an advantage in the House of Representatives. So both sides have a legitimate mandate — but not an unlimited one.

Republicans are furious that their members can’t defund or delay Obamacare. They want to see politicians stand up yelling, “No!” Theater has a function in politics. But in fact, they’ve had a partial victory this year, a win that didn’t seem likely last December. By accepting the sequester despite its defense cuts, Republicans have actually dialed down domestic discretionary spending. Democrats’ position now is essentially to maintain  the sequester. They’re swallowing something they hate. No wonder Obama seems sullen.

So both sides will have frustratingly partial victories and not get everything they want. That’s how James Madison’s system is supposed to work in a closely divided country.

http://www.nationalreview.com/node/360343/print

Offline Bigun

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Re: Blame the Shutdown on James Madison
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2013, 01:56:08 PM »
Michael Barone is onto something here me thinks!

Online mountaineer

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Re: Blame the Shutdown on James Madison
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2013, 08:27:42 AM »
Quote
But beneficiaries of government don’t necessarily vote Democratic. The state with the highest percentage of residents who receive disability insurance, West Virginia, voted 62 percent for Romney.
This harkens to something a Republican congressman from WV has been saying in recent speeches: that the Democrats and (especially) this administration just don't "get" rural America.
A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.

Offline Bigun

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Re: Blame the Shutdown on James Madison
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2013, 09:41:30 AM »
This harkens to something a Republican congressman from WV has been saying in recent speeches: that the Democrats and (especially) this administration just don't "get" rural America.

They don't get much of anything 5 miles outside the beltway and worse, They don't want to!

Offline Oceander

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Re: Blame the Shutdown on James Madison
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2013, 09:59:06 AM »
Of course this is what the Founders intended.  They had an extreme suspicion of both the legislative powers - the consent of the governed could too easily slip into demagoguery and mob violence of the worst sort - and the executive power - the depredations of King Geo. III being first and foremost in their minds.  They wanted government to be accountable to the governed - hence some version of popular election - but they also did not want a tyranny of the majority against the minority - hence the restrictions on "direct taxes" being in proportion to population (by state) and the provision of two senators to every state, no matter how small or unpopulated that state might be.  They also did not want the executive to be able to overcome the popular will of the people, hence the limitations on executive power and, in particular, the restriction of the power of the purse to the House of Representatives.

All of this is what passes - or used to pass in high school civics classes - as the "checks and balances" the Founders created under the Constitution.  However, those checks and balances go beyond merely regulating the relations between the three branches of government, and also regulate the relations within the legislative branch, in particular between the Senate and the House, where the Senate was initially conceived of as an indirectly-popularly-elected check on the demagogue impulses of the directly-popularly-elected House.  In point of fact, it is quite plausible that one of the most serious injuries we ever did to the US republican form of government was amending the Constitution to require the popular election of Senators.

So, in a word, "yes," this is precisely what the Founders intended and they would be quite happy to take all of the credit - along with all of the "blame" - for it.  It is, after all, what they intended to have happen.

Offline Bigun

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Re: Blame the Shutdown on James Madison
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2013, 10:33:36 AM »
... it is quite plausible that one of the most serious injuries we ever did to the US republican form of government was amending the Constitution to require the popular election of Senators.

This is absolutely true! What the 17th amendment did was fundamentally alter the framework of government the founders so carefully laid out in the Constitution.  As you accurately say, they intended for there to be a "people's house" with members directly elected by the governed and also a "state's house" with members appointed by the state's government there by laying out a system where by both the people and the states were represented. The result of the 17th amendment is that there are now two "people's houses and zero state's houses. Not good! Not good at all!
« Last Edit: October 06, 2013, 10:43:31 AM by Bigun »


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