Politics is a messy business. It involves horse trading, arm twisting, making deals, and other semi-sleazy activities. It is not for the faint of heart, and it is understandable that many in the public find it ignoble and perhaps even corrupt.
Some would compare the workings of politics in Washington to the making of sausage. It is interesting to note, however, that at the end of the process you have sausage. At the end of the political process you have a deal. It is likely that everyone will find something to dislike about the deal, but that is how politics works.
What is being practiced in Washington today is not politics. It makes politics look like a sacred calling. Because the fact is, politicians, for all their faults, tend to get the public business done. Maybe they throw in an extra bridge to nowhere to get the votes needed to pass a budget. Perhaps they fund a few questionable projects to secure an arms treaty with Russia. But they get the country’s business done. At the end of today’s Washington process, you have only continued stalemate and gridlock.
Generally politics gets done in something of a smoke filled room. Each side makes clear what they are unable to negotiate on principle. All other aspects of the bill get negotiated until a deal is reached. Side deals may be likely, but even the much maligned pork barrel process often got worthwhile things done. West Virginia would have no decent roads through its mountains without the efforts of the late Sen. Robert Byrd and others.
Today, it’s a little different. At least one side is saying nothing is negotiable. They are demanding everything they are asking for. They are refusing to agree to anything less than 100% of their demands. This is not politics. I don’t believe it is even an improvement over politics.
If we had a parliamentary system where one party runs and controls the government such an approach could work. There may be something to be said for such a system, but in general Americans have preferred a system where there is give and take and no one party has complete control over the government. The idea of the need for checks and balances in government is a strong one in this country going back to our founding fathers.
Consequently, we continue to be stuck with a dysfunctional government. Interestingly, the reason is that we don’t have enough politicians. It is these much maligned politicians that can get done what needs to be done. Too many in Congress today are not politicians and do not understand how the Congress is supposed to function and what their role is.
Today the issue is funding for Homeland Security. The debate is taking place at a time when many are fearful of the dangers emanating from the Islamic State. Nothing, however, seems to override the need to challenge the President on immigration, even though the issues are not really related.
The most recent news suggests that the Senate may be moving to a resolution of the problem. Perhaps there are some politicians in the Senate. Yet it remains unclear what if anything the House of Representatives will do even if the Senate passes a clean funding bill.
This funding issue is just one example of how our Congress has operated for more than two years now. A successful conclusion to this debate might suggest that the tide is turning and government might begin to work at least in a few areas. If a partial shutdown of the Homeland Security Department in these uncertain times actually occurs, it will tell us everything we need to know about Washington today.
Maybe we should consider raising our children to be politicians?