Why Washington Is Stuck in an Endless Loop of Dysfunction and Squabbling


Today Ezra Klein lists “The 13 reasons Washington is failing,” and to be honest, I was all ready not to like this post. I mean, seriously? Thirteen reasons? Spare me.

But it’s pretty good! Sure, numbers 5, 10, and 11 are kinda the same, but that’s OK. It’s an idea that deserves some repetition. And many of the others don’t always get the attention they deserve even though they’re surprisingly important. The most important one of all, I think, is way at the bottom of the list at #13. Generally speaking, I’m not part of the crowd that thinks we’re doomed to eternal gridlock and dysfunction, but there’s not much question that the transformation of American parties into ideological European-style parties is very, very, underappreciated. Regardless of how our current crisis works itself out, we’re on a massive collision course between de facto parliamentary rule, with party discipline as its fundamental feature, and a presidential system that never developed the parliamentary norms that make this work.

Maybe we’ll work things out. But governing norms are critical when the actual governing rules are incoherent, as ours have become, and the Republican Party has been gleefully tearing down governing norms ever since Newt Gingrich took over. I’m not sure how this is supposed to end.

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