This Week’s Meeting On the Problem with Congress (10/8/9)

All roads to solving our national problems lead through (ugh) Congress, so this is a really important topic. I know a lot about the institution, too. But debating Congress’ ills can get technical fast and testy even faster. So, here’s what I’m going to do.

First, I’ll keep my remarks fairly brief and at a high level of generality. You can ask me to drill down on various details during the discussion.

Second, since the reality of Congressional dysfunction is so obvious, I won’t try to argue the problem: (1) perennial gridlock and partisan paralysis, and (2) special interest corruption. Instead, I’ll focus on the causes of “the broken branch” (a book title) and possible solutions.

Preview:

• A lot of this is less Congress’ fault than it is a reflection of the growing dysfunction of our political system at large. Polarization, ideological divisions, scorched-earth politics, the permanent campaign—these are broader problems that get reflected in our elected legislature as much as they get magnified by it.

• Congress was designed to make sudden, major change hard to achieve, especially the Senate. The institution’s many rules and procedures, both formal and informal, make it even harder. There are ways around most of these bottlenecks, but they are seldom-used and unwieldy.

• I’m sorry, but we can’t diagnose why Congress is dysfunctional without examining the outsized role that one of our two parties—the GOP—has played in this recent, sorry history. The fault is shared by both parties, but not equally. Facts are stubborn things, but I’ll try to be respectful.

I don’t have any good, pithy articles to link to this week. You seldom see this topic summed up in any one place. See you all there.

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