by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
I think the problem is that Congress as a constitutional entity is too parochial to govern for the national interest. If this analysis is correct, then what we need to do is find ways to nationalize Congress. This does not mean getting rid of Congress altogether and replacing it with some national plebiscite. Local involvement in national affairs is essential to our political identity and brings a multitude of benefits. What we need, rather, is to find centripetal countermeasures to the centrifugal nature of our Congress.
This no doubt rankles those who prefer maximum localism and diversity within Congress. But we have to take the world as it is and not as we wish it to be. If we stipulate that we want public policies that work for the benefit of the whole nation, and that Congress cannot produce these policies on its own, then these centripetal forces have to come from somewhere. Right now, they come from the executive branch. The president has taken on more and more power in part because, as a unitary agent, he can claim to speak for the national interest, whereas Congress is cacophonous in its pronunciations and irresponsible in its policies.
Demanding a decentralized Congress, a properly diminished presidency, and coherent public policy is like wanting your cake and eating it, too. It isn’t going to happen, and we have to find a better alternative than an imperial presidency.
I think a better solution lies in the political parties, a suggestion that I reckon many are prone to dismiss out of hand.