How American Politics Went Insane–Read On

September 25, 2016

How American Politics Went Insane

by Jonathan Rauch

It happened gradually—and until the U.S. figures out how to treat the problem, it will only get worse.

It’s 2020, four years from now. The campaign is under way to succeed the president, who is retiring after a single wretched term. Voters are angrier than ever—at politicians, at compromisers, at the establishment. Congress and the White House seem incapable of working together on anything, even when their interests align. With lawmaking at a standstill, the president’s use of executive orders and regulatory discretion has reached a level that Congress views as dictatorial—not that Congress can do anything about it, except file lawsuits that the divided Supreme Court, its three vacancies unfilled, has been unable to resolve.

On Capitol Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan resigned after proving unable to pass a budget, or much else. The House burned through two more speakers and one “acting” speaker, a job invented following four speakerless months. The Senate, meanwhile, is tied in knots by wannabe presidents and aspiring talk-show hosts, who use the chamber as a social-media platform to build their brands by obstructing—well, everything. The Defense Department is among hundreds of agencies that have not been reauthorized, the government has shut down three times, and, yes, it finally happened: The United States briefly defaulted on the national debt, precipitating a market collapse and an economic downturn. No one wanted that outcome, but no one was able to prevent it.

As the presidential primaries unfold, Kanye West is leading a fractured field of Democrats. The Republican front-runner is Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame. Elected governor of Louisiana only a few months ago, he is promising to defy the Washington establishment by never trimming his beard. Party elders have given up all pretense of being more than spectators, and most of the candidates have given up all pretense of party loyalty. On the debate stages, and everywhere else, anything goes.

I could continue, but you get the gist. Yes, the political future I’ve described is unreal. But it is also a linear extrapolation of several trends on vivid display right now. Astonishingly, the 2016 Republican presidential race has been dominated by a candidate who is not, in any meaningful sense, a Republican. According to registration records, since 1987 Donald Trump has been a Republican, then an independent, then a Democrat, then a Republican, then “I do not wish to enroll in a party,” then a Republican; he has donated to both parties; he has shown loyalty to and affinity for neither. The second-place candidate, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, built his brand by tearing down his party’s: slurring the Senate Republican leader, railing against the Republican establishment, and closing the government as a career move…


17 thoughts on “How American Politics Went Insane–Read On

  1. Democratic governance can be messy and insane. The writer calls it Chaos Syndrome.

    To quote him: “Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers—political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees—that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—both in campaigns and in the government itself”.

    And he adds, “chaos syndrome is self-reinforcing. It causes governmental dysfunction, which fuels public anger, which incites political disruption, which causes yet more governmental dysfunction. Reversing the spiral will require understanding it. Consider, then, the etiology of a political disease: the immune system that defended the body politic for two centuries; the gradual dismantling of that immune system; the emergence of pathogens capable of exploiting the new vulnerability; the symptoms of the disorder; and, finally, its prognosis and treatment”. –Din Merican.

  2. Since this piece is about American politics, the response is simple… it went insane the moment the governing class allowed themselves to start messing with their Constitution… and trampled on the check and balance system built into their democracy…

    It could go only one way from then on…downhill…

  3. It is show time American politics, free for all.The Politics is being turned into trading merchandise that has lost much of its intrinsic core values in term of proper perspective,whether in campaign, debates or other engagements.

    The overuses and, often time, abuses of the 2 nd Amendment, are probably the main contributing causes.

  4. Right-wing mass media (such as Fox News) and heavily ideological right-wing think tanks (funded by plutocrats) contributed a lot to this.
    Also, the armies of lobbyists in Washington D.C.

  5. Quote:- “Since this piece is about American politics, the response is simple… it went insane the moment the governing class allowed themselves to start messing with their Constitution… and trampled on the check and balance system built into their democracy…

    It could go only one way from then on…downhill…”

    Are you sure you are not talking about Malaysian politics?

  6. What USofA needs is Purpose. A true Purpose.
    All they worship now, is celebrity and gossip. It’s all about sound and visual bytes.

    It’s existentialist crisis is the result of years of materialistic self absorption, hedonistic ease and orgasmic befuddlement instead of self reflection of it’s role in human progress. Their best thinkers are mumbling old geezers, that nobody takes the trouble to understand.

    I can’t imagine another nation where the religious majority makes a bestseller outta tremendously mundane book entitled “A Purpose Driven Life”, by an evangelical pastor of dubious theological veracity. They are losing ‘religion’ to the automobile.

    It’s leaders – both Republican and Democrat – are like blind nematodes who act like schoolyard bullies or else become entangled in the stupidest of follies. It’s time to move beyond the Ivy Leagues which more often than not produce Hyper Allergic Numbskulls – who react robotically most often without sufficient prescience or discernment – than being true futurist proactors, like Davy Crockett or even Grizzly Adams..

  7. The title purportedly criticises American politics in general but the content criticises Republican politics and the failure to arrest it. Fact is Hillary Clinton is no choice candy.

    The exasperation with such poor candidacy for the most powerful office, especially by Republicans for a while now does not ask why in a highly talented and largely meritocratic nation, nor more of their best are not offering themselves, not naturally selected for the purpose?

  8. As a result, the United States become the “source of turmoil in the world.”, behind unrest and disputes in many places, including the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the South China Sea, make messes in the world, cast shadows on order and stability in multiple regions and jeopardize peace and development in relevant countries……

  9. The only POTUS who really stood for the people, after FDR, was JFK. America’s gradual decline began after his untimely departure from office which dramatically changed the course of events for the country.

    America would have remained great under the helm of JFK. He prevented a nuclear armageddon. He put man on the moon. He moved the nation forward when he inspired and urged Americans to ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. He established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship. And last but not least, he.stood for the Civil Rights movement.

    He was about to withdraw all US troops from Vietnam to end the war just months before his assassination and would have regained government control of the Federal Reserve Bank.

    Yes. America died the day the bastards killed JFK. 😦

  10. Dear tai-ngong,
    I’m paranoid, okay?
    So Please take care of your head and stop breathing sometime in late 2017..

    No doubt the US is a mess, but PRC can’t even control their ‘Heavenly Palace’!

  11. CLF perhaps we can get the US or Russia to blast Tiangong 1 before it enters the atmosphere. Scary thought that the Chinese government is not even concerned about the imminent danger posed by Tiangong 1. What are the chances that Tiangong 1 burn up and debris falls in heavily populated area of China since no one knows where and when Tiangong 1 will reenter the atmosphere.

  12. Yup, semper.

    They have lost the telemetry and that ‘Palace’ (including ‘quantum’ computers and cesium atomic clocks) is tumbling probably in a chaotic fashion.

    Both US and Russia have the capability to take it out only if they can detect it’s terminal trajectory. But using a nuclear tipped ABM like the Russian ABM-3/4 ain’t good cuz of fallout and there are doubts about PRC’s own HQ-19/26 accuracy.

    The Aegis based THAAD with a kinetic kill tech may be best, but still doesn’t deal with the Hydrazine toxicity or the liquefying metal.

    If it lands in populated centers of paranoid nations like PRC/N.Korea, guess what?

    See you next X’mas..

  13. Katasayang, it’s one way of avoiding the debris from falling and doing damage or killing people in heavily populated areas. Especially when PRC have lost control of the space station. But as CLF mentioned, the problem is tracking and establishing the trajectory and time and point of entry into earth’s atmosphere. The other problem is dealing with the hazardous material carried by the space station some of which may be contaminated or even exposed to radiation.

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