Our political system is not functioning well, what's up w/ that? This is the latest topic from National Journal leadership guru Ron Fournier, who's once again successfully trolled the political Internet -- curse you, Fournier! -- with another of his famous think pieces.
The prism through which he dumps this batch of generalized laments goes like so: Our problems are so big, but our politics is focused on trivia. Mind: blown. Had anyone ever considered this -- that our politics is marked by bullshit? This is a new, fertile direction for American punditry.
OK, OK. We'll temporarily stop being jerks. Let's hear him out. "On issue after issue," Fournier writes, "the Republican and Democratic parties preen and pose but ultimately duck their responsibilities to solve the transcendent problems of our times."
Transcendent problem No. 1 about which both the Republican and Democratic parties preen and pose and ultimately duck their responsibilities:
On immigration, we need durable new rules that give 11 million illegal immigrants some form of legalization without punishing those who followed the old rules, and that acknowledge the steep social costs of porous borders. In other words, true reform would be bipartisan, addressing credible concerns of conservatives and liberals alike.
Instead, we're about to get temporary half-measures issued by fiat from Obama.
The solution that Fournier proposes sounds an awful lot like a certain comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Democratic Senate passed last year with about a dozen Republican votes in the Senate. That bill would have addressed the legal status of the undocumented population already in the country while militarizing the southern border to an almost farcical extent. House Republicans ignored this bill because they were scared of being primaried. President Obama is indeed going to issue "temporary half-measures" -- known in some quarters as a tyrannical blanket amnesty that will spark a constitutional crisis! -- that are within the bounds of his executive power. He and the Democratic Party remain perfectly willing to work with Republicans on that package of durable legislation that the Republican Party has rejected.
On energy, we need a national policy that balances the threat of global warming against the hunger for jobs—one that acknowledges the economic and national security benefits of diversifying our energy buffet.
Instead, Washington stages a symbolic and near-empty debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. Lost amid the hype and lies are two inconvenient truths: The pipeline is unlikely to alter global greenhouse emissions, and it would produce only 50 long-term jobs.
We need a debate about stopping global warming and "diversifying our energy buffet." The problem is that, for the foreseeable future, we'll never have another legislative debate about global warming because one political party does not believe it exists and sees no need to develop alternative forms of energy. That's the only reason that the legislative focal point is now Keystone -- something that the Democrats have already more or less caved on anyway.
After a little more preening and posing from Fournier about how both parties aren't up to the task -- we need a budget "grand bargain" (like the one Obama proposed and John Boehner backed out of in 2011, etc.) -- he gets around to the most bizarre section of all:
On health care, we needed a market-driven plan that decreases the percentage of uninsured Americans without convoluting the U.S. health care system. Just such a plan sprang out of conservative think tanks and was tested by a GOP governor in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.
Instead of a bipartisan agreement to bring that plan to scale, we got more partisan warfare. The GOP resisted, Obama surrendered his mantle of bipartisanship, and Democrats muscled through a one-sided law that has never been popular with a majority of the public.
At first, this seems like he's moved beyond trolling. It marks a new form of post-trolling in which he's acknowledging his reputation as a troll and is playing to character with a knowing, campy wink, just for the fun of it.
He's clarified on Twitter that he understands Obamacare is Romneycare brought to scale. Phew. What's strange, then, is how he thinks the bill Democrats "muscled" through was a "one-sided law" that somehow abandoned the integrity of this framework. It didn't. If anything, the debate became more conservative as the bill approached the finish line -- dropping the public option and/or a downward expansion of Medicare, etc. -- in order to secure the votes of red-state Democrats and Joe Lieberman.
After all this, here's the verdict from Fournier: The blame for the smallness of our politics belongs to both sides. "Is the GOP responsible for the extraordinary smallness of Washington? How about the Democrats? The answer is, yes—both are." He then suggests that, OK, maybe the GOP is a little bit more to blame, but it doesn't matter. "While I would personally place a majority of the onus on a hardened GOP base, parsing the blame doesn't solve the problem." This is a lot like saying, well, it doesn't matter whether climate change is man-made or not -- the problem needs to be solved. Shouldn't Fournier want a careful diagnosis of the problem so he can better understand how to solve it?