Thursday, March 04, 2010

Is Washington really dysfunctional?

The general sentiment seems to be that our federal government in Washington is "broken" and "dysfunctional", but I disagree. Yes, there is plenty of conflict between the major parties and interest groups in Washington, but that by itself does not mean that the government is dysfunctional. The government mirrors the people of the country. America is a very diverse country with a lot of strong and often divergent interests. Sometimes these divergent interests can come together and compromise and agree to changes in laws and regulations, and sometimes not. Compromise can sometimes be a very good thing, but sometimes interests are too far apart and compromise cannot be achieved at any given moment of time. That is a real part of real life, and neither necessarily good nor bad nor even "evil."

People throw the term "gridlock" around as if it were necessarily dysfunctional in government, but it simply means that there is not agreement sufficient to pass a particular legislative agenda. Sure, maybe some particular compromise might have prevented gridlock, but maybe that compromise would not necessarily be what is best for the country. Not all change is necessarily good or appropriate. The function of government is to balance and moderate change and the status quo. Even if "change" is expected or perceived as needed, that does not mean that any particular legislative agenda is necessarily "good" or "best" compared to maintaining the status quo.

Not everybody is happy with the speed (or lack thereof) at which Washington operates, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, and rapid action is not necessarily an indication of the quality of an action. Remember the Gulf of Tonkin resolution?

Instant gratification and "the urgency of now" or labeling a given initiative as "the change we need" should never be used as excuses to short-circuit the balancing mechanisms built intentionally into our system of government in Washington. Maybe some people would prefer a dictatorship or even a monarchy. Fine, but that is not the system we have. Deal with it. Accept it.

Sure, the sight of a single Senator holding up some very needed job and construction money can be disheartening, but it would be even more disheartening if there were no way for a lone voice to appeal (briefly) against a perceived tyranny of the majority.

Looking at it up close (as one might inspect a sausage factory) on a daily basis is a very, very poor way to judge Washington. Washington, as any large institution, should be judged by the test of time, over a very extended period of time, judged over decades and even generations. Besides we, the people, have a strong say every two, four, and six years as to whether we are content with our congressional representatives, senators, and even the president.

We have a representative democracy, so let our representatives do their jobs and let Washington do its job of balancing competing interests. Come November 2010 and November 2012 we can all "vote" our displeasure if needed, but otherwise we should all just back off and let our elected leaders and representatives do the jobs we pay them so handsomely to do.

Sure, we can all imagine an "ideal" government which all sorts of wondrous things, but we live in a real country, not some perceived ideal country.

So, much of the anxiety and "voter anger" is simply hyped, generated, and incited by the media (and quasi-media commentators, like us bloggers and representatives of political parties and interest groups) for their own profit and agendas. By all means, please let your elected leaders and representatives know how you feel and what you expect on all issues that you care about, but DO NOT allow the media or these quasi-media commentators to dictate to you what those issues should be or what your positions on those issues should be. And just remember that if you do allow the media to define or control or in any way influence what you believe or how you feel about any issue then you have effectively abdicated your primary responsibility as a citizen and a voter since Washington will ultimately be no better than the voters who send leaders and representatives to it.

Washington is us. So if you still believe that Washington is dysfunctional, maybe it is you yourself who is dysfunctional or at least out of sync with the rest of the country. There is a lot of conflict and uncertainty around, between, and within us, and that will be reflected in our government. Deal with it. Accept it. It is you. It is us.

Even in the best of times, on our best days we each encounter and deal with conflict and uncertainty. It's what we do. It is what we are designed to do, both as individuals and as a country. It is what we do best. Maybe in some limited cases our response is simple, but frequently it is not so simple even if mentally we paper it over and brush it off. But, then, sometimes we struggle and allow others (the media, et al) to con us into believing that all hope is lost. What nonsense.

At least from where I sit, I see a Washington that is truly a thing of awe. That so many interests can be brought together and achieve anything at all is, to me, truly amazing.

Sure, various groups struggle for power and control in government in the near-term, but that in no way detracts from the overall vision and mission of what Washington is really all about, serving the long-term needs of the people.

-- Jack Krupansky

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