And the Fundamental Reason that Republican Government Sucks Is…

|

"…that too many Republicans now believe their purpose in Washington is keeping power for its own sake."

So proclaimeth the Wall Street Journal, which sighs

Republicans in the 109th have been a major disappointment. The best thing about this Congress is that by doing little at least it did little harm. But despite their best chance in 50 years to reform the creaky institutions of the welfare state, Republicans couldn't maintain the unity or discipline to achieve nearly any of what they promised in 2004.

More here.

And what of the Democrats? In the Wash Post, Sebastian Mallaby decries the Donkey Party's fundamental lack of ideas, principles, and whathaveyou:

The infuriating thing about the Democrats is that, just a decade ago, they knew how to empathize with voters' economic insecurities without collapsing into irresponsibility; they combined attractively progressive social policies with sensible pro-market fiscal responsibility. Now many in the party have lost interest in this necessary balance. If the Democrats win a measure of power next month, it's hard to see what they will do with it.

More here. And in a partisan jibe, Michael Barone lays into the Dems' opposition to pretty much anything the GOP wants when it comes to the War on Terror.

The Instapundit, from whom I filched the above, laments, "It's enough to make you lose faith in the two-party system."

Advertisement

NEXT: Kos for Concern

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Oh come on Nick. Both parties have lots of reasons to be in power beyond “power itself”. Think about it, there is always getting your friends rich through lucrative government contracts on needless pork projects. Then there is getting to bang all of the teenage pages you can. On top of that there is the six figure retirement you get for being there for just a few years. There is always standing up on the House or Senate floor and making a jackass of yourself braying about this or that meaningless but good soundbite making policy. There is always dragging innocent people before pettifogging committees and hoping you can get them to lie and then send them to jail. Then of course there is always they big paying lobbying jobs you can get when you finally managed to drink, steal whore so badly that even the dumb hicks back in your district finally throw you out so someone else gets to drink, steal and whore on the government dime. How can you possibly say these guys and gals don’t have ideas?

  2. I have a cunning plan. Given that the GOP is likely to lose the House this time around, it should use its current control of Congress and the White House to gut federal power. Yes, sabotage the mechanism of unlimited government to stick it to the Dems. Splitters!

    I don’t know about y’all, but this sounds like the best hope for limited government yet 😉 Call your Congressman now!

  3. They’ve been spending most our cash,
    Living in a Congress paradise.
    They’ve been spending most our cash,
    Living in a Congress paradise.
    They’ve been wasting most our cash,
    Glorifying days long gone behind.
    They’ve been wasting most our days,
    In remembrance of ignorance oldest praise.
    Tell me who of them will come to be?
    How many of them are you and me?

    Dissipation
    Race Relations
    Consolation
    Segregation
    Dispensation
    Isolation
    Exploitation
    Mutilation
    Mutations
    Miscreation
    Confirmation…….to the evils of the world.

    They’ve been spending most our cash,
    Living in a future paradise.
    They’ve been spending most our cash,
    Living in a future paradise.
    They’ve been looking in their minds,
    For the day that freedom’s gone from time.
    They keep telling of the day,
    When the G.O.P. will come to stay.
    Tell me who of them will come to be,
    How many of them are you and me?

    Proclamation
    of Race Relations
    Consolation
    Integration
    Verification
    of Revelations
    Acclamation
    World Salvation
    Vibrations
    Simulation
    Confirmation…….get a piecee of the world.

    They’ve been spending most our cash,
    Living in a Congress paradise.
    They’ve been spending most our cash,
    Living in a Congress paradise.
    They’ve been spending most our cash,
    Living in a future paradise.
    They’ve been spending most our cash,
    Living in a future paradise.
    They’ve been spending too much of our cash,
    Living in a Congress paradise.

    Let’s start living our lives,
    Living for the future paradise.
    Praise to our lives,
    Living for the future paradise.
    Shame to anyones’ lives,
    Living in a Congress paradise.

  4. If I may ask an off-topic question: Is anyone certain of their pronounciation for “Beccaria,” the so-called “father” of criminology.

  5. I read the first line, Steveland.

    Anyway, as repugnant as the Elephant is, the Donkey is worse. At least the Republicans still pay some sort of lip service to past ideals. The Dems are just stupid, meddling, demagogic, social-engineering cretins without a shred left of original thought.

    I am not optimistic for any kind of meaningful change, because it will have to originate with the voters’ own philosophies. Good luck with that.

  6. “It’s enough to make you lose faith in the two-party system…”

    Well, no. Two parties like these is enough. Do you want a multiparty system, with a dozen or so corrupt and wasteful parties like these ? No, definitly no !

  7. Actually, Jacob, in a multi-party system, parties wouldn’t be able to be as wasteful and corrupt as ours, because when the ruling party screws the pooch, there are several opposition parties to vote for instead of just one – which means the wanna-bes can’t just sit back Democrat-style.

  8. …as repugnant as the Elephant is, the Donkey is worse.

    I’m not so sure. At least with the Dems, you know what you’re getting…

  9. “n a multi-party system, parties wouldn’t be able to be as wasteful and corrupt as ours…”

    They’ll be more corrupt.
    In a multiparty system you need to form a coalition government, and this is done by giving away pork to buy the smaller parties. The price can be quite high.

  10. The second best thing we could hope for from our two party system is that the various branches and parties spend all of their productive time assbiting one another (and their pages). This is why we should allow conditional voting: I vote for X senator only if X’s party doesn’t win control of the House and the Presidency. Otherwise I vote for Y. Or there could just be a box marked “gridlock.”

    Yes, that’s the second best possible outcome. The best possible outcome for any given election would involve chimp senators, pay toilets, and a president controlled by the blind dolphin starring in Johnny Mnemonic.

  11. i thought i was going to be entertained by a reason repudiation of republican government as in the form, not the party…..

    too much wishful thinking.

  12. Actually, Jacob, in a multi-party system, parties wouldn’t be able to be as wasteful and corrupt as ours, because when the ruling party screws the pooch, there are several opposition parties to vote for instead of just one – which means the wanna-bes can’t just sit back Democrat-style.

    You may have a point, there.

  13. On the last line of the post about losing your faith in the 2 party system, I would like to quote my favorite artist Bob Dylan (Positively 4th Street):
    “You say you lost your faith, but that’s not where its at, you have no faith to lose, and you know it.”

  14. But what’s partisanism like in multi-party systems? What will happen to all the “if you don’t like the other guy, you must belong to us!” party robots? Though, I’m sure the “members of the other party are evil, and members of our party are good, despite the near-indistinguishibility of our parties’ actual politicians” crowd will manage.

  15. “Actually, Jacob, in a multi-party system, parties wouldn’t be able to be as wasteful and corrupt as ours, because when the ruling party screws the pooch, there are several opposition parties to vote for instead of just one – which means the wanna-bes can’t just sit back Democrat-style.”

    Wish it were true. What happens is that one party comes to dominate by constant deals with the minor party(-ies). The deals usually involve more government spending. This happens all the time in Parliamentary democracies. In Canada, we have had Liberal Party rule for most of the last 100 years, with brief interregnums such as the present Harper minority government.

    *sigh*

  16. Just to play devil’s advocate, I wonder if a multi-party system avoids this problem quite so adroitly. Maybe having that third or fourth party option means that when distaste for the first two gets large enough, we turn to three or four. Unfortunately, three and four might be wacko parties. Uh, oh. In our current system, there is a kind of mean around which both parties revolve. If we steer clear of those parties, we may be steering clear of that mean.

    Of course, if you have a problem with that mean in the first place, well, then, party on, Garth!

  17. I would like to quote my favorite artist Bob Dylan (Positively 4th Street)

    “Positively 4th Street” = Best Putdown Song Ever.

    And now I know you’re dissatisfied
    With your position and your place
    Don’t you understand
    It’s not my problem

    Not “Geez, I’m sorry, but I got nothing for you, man,” but “Go away. I don’t care about you.” Gawd, he’s good.

    I wish that for just one time
    You could stand inside my shoes
    And just for that one moment
    I could be you

    I love that sounds like he’s actually opening up to the subject of his ire, but then, BAM! He’s just turning them on their back to expose their soft underbelly so he can really stick it to them:

    Yes, I wish that for just one time
    You could stand inside my shoes
    You’d know what a drag it is
    To see you

    I LOVE IT! Great stuff.

  18. Pro,

    A multi-party system creates more not less corruption. What happens is that you have two main parties and then a bunch of wacko parties on the extreme left and right who hold a disproportional amount of influence because they are the tie breakers between the big two parties. Shockingly, they use this power not provide an enlightened balance between the big two parties but instead to extort political graft and favors in return for their support. If want someone like Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan or Louis Farrakhan to hold veto power in Congress, a multi-party system is for you.

  19. And in a partisan jibe, Michael Barone lays into the Dems’ opposition to pretty much anything the GOP wants when it comes to the War on Terror.

    Republicans should thank the Democrats daily for being such a weak, half-hearted “opposition”.

  20. Why do we permit parties at all? Wouldn’t we be better off with a Constitutional amendment banning party affiliation? This would cause voters actually to understand what their candidates stand for, rather than using the short-hand “party” system, which too often results in ill-informed people voting for their “team.” Maybe it might even cause the less-informed people not to vote at all, which wouldn’t be a bad thing, either.

  21. Actually, John, I brought up a Godwinesque point similar to yours when joe raised the issue of a multi-party system in another thread. Although no libertarian worth anything can like the current two-party mess, there are some negatives associated with having yet more parties. Frankly, I think our Cincinnatus got it right: The proper number of parties is zero. I’d love to work out a way to ban any official recognition of political parties (other than as people exercising their right to freely associate, of course), but that ain’t going to happen.

    Oh, my Godwin moment was to mention that I had just heard on my Rise and Fall of the Third Reich tape the author (William Shirer) stating that the Nazis’ rise to power was helped in no small part by the proportional voting and resulting multi-party system in the German “republic”. Obviously, that sort of voting or having more than two parties doesn’t lead inevitably to Nazism, but I think your criticism is a valid one. Although I will note that those marginal arbiters of power just live within the existing parties right now, so maybe the difference is just one of bringing them out in the open 🙂

  22. Former Republican,

    Excellent! That makes two of us–just a hundred million or so to go. Like I said, I don’t want to fiddle with the right of people to affiliate with whomever or whatever they want; however, I do want to totally eliminate any laws, rules, traditions, etc. that give any official imprimatur to the political parties.

  23. In a multiparty system you need to form a coalition government, and this is done by giving away pork to buy the smaller parties. The price can be quite high.

    Keep in mind that most multiparty systems also have parliamentary rule, but the issue of how you elect the legislature is distinct from the issue of whether the legislature elects the executive. There are countries with parliamentary systems that don’t use proportional representation, so in any given district or region there are only two strong parties. (e.g. England) And there are countries that use proportional representation but elect the executive separately (e.g. Costa Rica).

    And it also matters whether the legislature elects the executive to a fixed term (like Switzerland) or to a term that can end prematurely with a vote of no-confidence, triggering a new parliamentary election. If a minor party can at any time pull out and shut down the system then you have to keep them happy at all times. But if there’s a fixed term, then keeping minor parties happy is less important.

    I’m not advocating that we change our system, I’m just saying that people here are conflating a lot of issues that are actually quite distinct.

  24. At least the Republicans still pay some sort of lip service to past ideals.

    brilliant. i was on the fence about which was the lesser of two evils, but you’ve convinced me: go with the better liars.

    please tell me you didn’t mean it and you take it back.

    -cab

  25. thoreau,

    I agree that there are many shades of gray here and that we could tweak a proportional system to work within our existing framework. However, it would be wrong not to point out the flaws that have shown up in other governments, even though those flaws might be endemic to some other feature of those governments. Political science is a tricky business, since nothing happens in a vacuum–it’s hard to isolate, study, and adopt one feature of a particular political system for a particular culture at a particular time.

    All that said, I stand by my desire to ban official recognition of political parties.

  26. PL-

    True. The problem is that most countries that adopt a proportional system also adopt a parliamentary system, and most countries with parliamentary systems also allow for early elections if the coalition falls apart.

    The most interesting counter-examples to look at, with lessons that may be relevant to our country, are probably Switzerland and Costa Rica. It’s worth noting that both of these countries have systems that are intermediate between ours and the more popular models, and they are general more stable, more free, and more prosperous than their neighbors.

  27. One other thing to keep in mind, before we pat ourselves on the back too much, is that on paper Mexico’s system isn’t all that radically different from ours. Notice that I say “on paper.”

  28. I’m not sure that I like the parliamentary system, as in vogue as it may be among our sister republics. In a culture with a very strong tradition of liberal government–like the U.K.–it works pretty well. But it seems to be quite unstable in nations without that sort of tradition. Italy, for instance, seems on the verge of collapse every decade or so. Even in the U.K., the system seems somewhat precarious during times of economic distress.

    I think we’ve got it right with the three branches and with the federal republic. At least in principle, if not always in practice. Where we’ve gone wrong–aside from weakening the restraints of the Constitution, that is–is in allowing these two parties to become so entrenched. How two parties can represent the interests of fifty states, five or six major regions, three hundred million people, and Zeus knows how many interest groups is beyond me. It’s no wonder that we’re all so dissatisfied with the parties!

    I favor a cautious, incremental move to some type of proportional voting. As I said before, I like your suggestion of perhaps limiting it to the House or something like that. It’s a more democratic concept, so it works better with the more democratic branch. It could also be a much better way of doing business at the local level. While we’re at it, maybe such a reform should be accompanied by repealing the 17th Amendment and the direct election of Senators. I think the idea of a mixed government (i.e., a little democracy, a little monarchy, a little aristocracy/oligarchy) is a good one.

    The “on paper” issue has always fascinated me. The Weimar Constitution looked good on paper. So did some iterations of the Soviet Constitution. I think the Liberian constitution was an out-and-out copy of ours at one point. Obviously, the constitution has to really have legitimacy and authority to work. One fear I have with the constant dilution of our fine foundational document is that it could lose that legitimacy. Zeus knows what would happen then, though I’m sure whatever it would be would be bad.

  29. PL-

    One practical thing to keep in mind is that ANY change in voting systems will happen first on the state level, and that is for the better.

  30. That’s true. As we learned when the SCOTUS smacked down term limits. To the infamy of their names! To the utter damnation of their line! Wait, sorry, just had an Olivier/Spartacus moment. I’m okay now.

    Anyway, doing things differently in the “several states” is a pretty important point to federalism. Each state can be a unique laboratory for different ideas and methods. I’d like to try a proportional scheme here in Florida, which already has pretty liberal ballot access laws, anyway.

  31. A new party?
    Lets hear it for the “Constitutional Republican Pary” or “The Libertarian Republican Pary”.

    BTW: In a related issue, has anyone started up the Libertarian militia yet?

    PS Has “Reason” ever taken a survey of what guns are the most popular with Reason readers?

  32. I own a dart gun. My darts are loaded with high fructose corn syrup.

  33. I own an orbiting X-ray laser. It only fires once, but it’s a doozy!

  34. If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democratic.

  35. At least with the Dems, you know what you’re getting…

    I seem to recall someone saying that about the Republicans, just before they were swept into power.

    I wonder if a multi-party system avoids this problem quite so adroitly

    No, it won’t. The solution is that democracies, even republican democracies, need to find a way to build in a reset button. A control-alt-delete function. A way to clear out all those corrupted memory spaces.

    Because democratic processes do not, in the long run, reward politicians who stick to principles. The louts who give the hand outs win out sooner or later.

    Truth be, democracy in whatever form (call ours “a republic” if you feel better) is a pretty crappy form of government. I just haven’t seen a better answer yet.

  36. “Why do we permit parties at all? Wouldn’t we be better off with a Constitutional amendment banning party affiliation?”

    What, you want the parties to organize in secret? The Anti-Masonic Party was said (probably by their opponents) to operate that way: “Are you now or have you ever been a member…?” “I know nothing.”

    But seriously, about the most that could practically be done in that regard would be to dis-establish the parties, the same way churches are not established by the state. Eliminate reference to political parties in state election laws and federal campaign finance law.

    While I believe all of the above would be benign changes, and could actually be accomplished by voter initiative in some jurisdictions (partisan pols are unlikely to legislate it themselves, although that unlikelihood is less now than it would’ve been 50 years ago), they would have little practical effect. Their chief significant effect would be to weaken the strongest party relative to the second strongest in the jurisdiction in question, plus to save a sliver of the public fisc.

    All over the USA there are some officially non-partisan elections. Some states have lots of them, others (e.g. Texas) have few, but all have some. Compare to the results of officially partisan elections. Not that big a difference, huh?

  37. One of these days we’re going to pay Burt Rutan enough money to go figure out space travel. Then we can each our very own damned planet, moon, or whatever, and we can each rule it any way we please.

    But then, we’ll have to figure out how to interact with each other. And then we’ll be right back at square one…..

    Hmm. Seemed like a good idea at first.

  38. “Why do we permit parties at all? Wouldn’t we be better off with a Constitutional amendment banning party affiliation?” Former Republican

    A constitutional amendment limiting the freedoms of association and speech? Wow, what a incredible, idiotic, inane, utopian, tyrannical, and un-American suggestion.

  39. Andrew-

    Well, I figure we’ll get Approval Voting (if we get it at all) long before PR, so we can see what happens before we move to PR.

  40. The solution is that democracies, even republican democracies, need to find a way to build in a reset button.

    I suppose Jefferson would say that that’s what he meant when he said we needed a revolution every now and again. The only problem with that is that I’d prefer to avoid having regular bloodlettings become a part of our political system.

    Robert Goodman,

    Yes, disestablishment of the political parties is the answer. We’re not talking about preventing people from freely associating; we’re just not going to let them continue to build those associations directly into our political and electoral processes. I find disestablishmentarianism a far more reasonable position than its opposite: antidisestablishmentarianism.

  41. There is really nothing stopping us from being a multi-party state right now, apart from five centuries or so of Anglo-American cultural tradition.

    Power in the USA and UK always tends to coalesce around two omnibus parties, and any third-party position that gets any foothold is rapidly co-opted into one of the two omnibus parties. One way to look at it is that we form our governing coalitions before the elections, rather than after them. But the coalitions would probably look much the same, either way. In either case, fringe elements like Christian fundamentalists, union bosses, and eco-nuts get a degree of influence that greatly outweighs their numbers.

    Either way, the American electorate is currently disgruntled in that vague sort of way that only fat, overindulged people can be. Doesn’t lead to much policy change in any direction.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.