by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
David Harsanyi explains in a Federalist column why the prospect of gridlock — a feature, not a bug, within the American constitutional system — offers some hope that the next election will not lead to disaster.
[I]f the prospects of a Hillary presidency are truly as apocalyptic as I‘m told, shouldn’t Republicans be appalled that their nominee is undermining the only institution in Washington that has the power to stop her agenda should he lose the race? After all, it wasn’t Ryan who coaxed Trump into vulgarity on a hot mic.
Well, what’s the difference? These cowardly Republicans have given President Obama everything he wanted!
I hear this absurd myth every day. Elsewhere, I’ve gone into great detail, debunking the idea that Congress has enabled Obama’s agenda in toto — a belief that is pervasive among Trump supporters. In reality, a GOP Congress spent eight years doing the opposite. Not only did it block dozens of progressive initiatives and reforms, it often sued the president for abusing his executive power (winning a host of cases).
These presidential overreaches, incidentally, were necessitated by the GOP’s effective “obstructionism” — which is just another way of describing the manifestation of a divided nation’s will.
Of course this Republican Congress is infuriating. It often fails. It often folds. It creates unrealistic expectations. It struggles to find compelling arguments that appeal to its base. It picks mediocre candidates and is often paralyzed by risk-aversion.
Yet it’s also true that an uncompromising legislative branch stymied an uncompromising ideologue in the White House. I note the former with admiration, because, despite the assertions of our political class, the most crucial task of those elected to Congress isn’t to pass minimum-wage laws but to check the power of the executive branch. They did it better than most.
This time around, both of our big-government candidates deserve to grapple with gridlock for the next four years. There’s simply no better antidote to the authoritarianism and corruption that’s infected our political causes. In fact, if Republicans somehow hold the Senate, they should also have the spine to preserve the even 4-4 split in the Supreme Court to stop a potentially progressive judicial branch from further empowering the state.