The Problem isn’t the Presidency

Worrying about who is President makes sense, but it’s been accentuated by the abysmally incompetent Congress.

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Bernie Sanders is making the case here that he’s the right guy for the Presidency, owing to Hillary Clinton’s weaker prospects against Trump. That’s a legitimate concern if you’re a Democrat, because Trump with a GOP Congress is about as disruptive a combination I can imagine to run the American federal government.

What’s unfortunate is that the narrative of a supreme President calling the shots misses out on some key points about what the American federal system ought to be, which is “only slightly dysfunctional”. As it is, we are historically at “highly dysfunctional”: Congress is, in historical terms, the most inactive it’s been in over a century. We’re at war in a half-dozen places under a Congressional authorization that’s over a decade old and in another half-dozen places which are only pretending to be under that authorization. The intelligence services and FBI are so empowered to be playing games with Congress that Congress can’t get itself together to outlaw or sanction the agencies for their criminal activities. Judges aren’t getting approved by the Senate.

America needs a revised Church Committee and a revised War Powers Resolution. The Dodd-Frank Act was passed in the midst of crisis and managed to chip away at out-of-control financial power in the US, but that was probably the last hurrah for big Congressional acts to address systemic dysfunction in America. The Affordable Care Act was the best we could do to control America’s broken healthcare system, and in essence it’s a giveaway to insurance companies which is only going to slightly un-break the system, basically ensuring that no one goes without the ability to receive high-end health care in exchange for everyone not making $300k+ a year from getting screwed with low-end medical costs and higher insurance premiums.

The country needs some serious help, and if Clinton wins she’s going to be facing an even more hostile Congress than Obama faced… and I don’t get the impression she’s going to be half as restrained as Obama was in the face of Congressional torpor. Leaving aside her policies, yet another eight years of an expanding executive and Presidency isn’t going to do a damn bit of good to create a more functional Congress; it’s going to exacerbate the situation so far as I can tell. We all know Clinton is going to do what she wants – she’s had decades to get tired of GOP bullshit – and considering Congress is probably going to be worse than useless the country will need that kind of attention to get anything done, with the inevitable backlash and deepening GOP intransigence to follow. I doubt that in such an environment that the party could mount an effective resurrection and resurgence.

It took the Federalist Party a few decades to die out. While it lingered on, it was irrelevant and basically handed the non-judicial reins of government over to the Democratic-Republican Party. I can only hope that the GOP’s apparent atrophying is sped along by the faster pace of modern life and that something new and powerful emerges. The country will not functional well with a one-party system any more than it has done through the current one-and-a-half party system.