06 Dec A 2020 Holiday Wish
TLR has prepared a Holiday Wish List that includes a request for political functionality that one hopes can be delivered this Holiday Season to provide joy – the kind that comes from economic and physical well-being – that will last well into 2021 and, potentially, for years to come. Lawyers might label it a fanciful “gift-in-political-perpetuity” … but it’s more than that. TLR views the wish as a realistic plea for political sanity and, consequently, as an appropriate ask for the Holidays. Granting TLR’s political wish would require a mere evolutionary advancement in the form in which America’s Constitutional democracy functions – fortunately not a revolutionary one – that could be achieved without great effort by drawing on a potentially overlooked source of political leadership to build a durable bridge across the partisan abyss chasm gap that divides Democrats and Republicans.
Too much to ask? “Impossible!” you say?
Not at all.
The results of the 2020 election provide precisely what Santa might have ordered!
America’s government in 2021 will be divided in a most interesting way. The Democratic Party for the next two years will have a narrower 222-212 majority in the House of Representatives and, assuming that the two Republican Senatorial candidates in Georgia recapture their seats in their January 5th run-off elections, the Republican Party will have a narrower 52-48 majority in the Senate (although the seeming inevitability of the Georgia Senatorial outcome might be illusory if Republican voters listen to the entreaties of several Republican Party functionaries urging them not to vote because the election outcome will be fraudulently fixed against their candidates). Congress therefore quite likely will be rendered largely impotent gridlocked, with the Republican majority in the Senate willing and enthusiastically able (under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) to block both the Biden Administration’s legislative agenda and its Executive and Judicial appointments. Political gridlock is not always a bad thing. It can be a positive, desirable force when a country is doing well. Gridlock in good times prevents the types of excess that a single Political Party’s control often encourages. If the country is on the right track, if its economy and population are healthy and content, if there is an absence of external military and economic threats, there is no reason without bipartisan agreement to enact laws, promulgate regulations or effect change in the Executive or Judicial branches of government. Why try to fix something that isn’t broken? America today, however, is broken. It’s divided – Americans are fractionalized –, too many of its people are out of work and unemployable, its economy and the health of its population are suffering, and the world is a progressively more dangerous place for America and Americans … economically and militarily. The physical health of America’s population is threatened by Covid-19, which has caused significant economic hardship and dislocation and will continue to burden America’s economy and its social cohesion. America also is threatened by the rise of foreign adversaries intent on eroding American power, replacing American goods and technology and undermining American influence (discussed in https://blog.thelonelyrealist.com/axis-of-the-sanctioned-part-2/). That America’s problems have been increasing over time is not new news. Americans’ economic and physical health and the cohesion of America’s diverse population have seen a marked decline over the last few decades. Should there be gridlock that prevents America’s government from taking actions that might be necessary to address new and existing challenges, America’s foundational cracks will widen. Today’s difficulties call for an exceptional application of the Reagan mantra that “government is not the solution to our problems, it is the problem” … and the non-functionality of government indeed is the problem today. America can only solve its problem by changing the way America’s government works … so that it works.
America is a Constitutional democracy where enacting laws requires agreement between the President and Congress, each elected separately. America’s system of government differs from the majority of other democratic governments, which are parliamentary ones where the country’s head-of-state is not elected separately and serves at the pleasure of its legislature. Because the executive and legislative branches of government in a parliamentary democracy therefore are aligned (they are one and the same), they set – and enact – the legislative agenda for the country. In forming governments in a parliamentary democracy, plurality parties are forced to embrace change-by cooperating with minority parties to create a majority coalition with blended platforms and policies. That is one of the strengths of parliamentary democracy. With the cojoining of ideas, different Political Parties with different political philosophies and agendas come together in compromise, bringing together disparate constituencies drawn from different parts of the political spectrum, a temporizing influence on society. The governing party in a parliamentary democracy thereafter has an almost unfettered ability to enact its modified – and moderated – platform. A similar outcome would be of benefit in America today. Compromise was the essence of American government during the latter half of the 20th Century. It has been largely banished from the 21st.
America’s Republican and Democratic Parties in 2020 have to one extent or another been pulled away from their respective slightly right-of-center and slightly left-of-center roots and towards the extremes of autocracy and socialism, respectively. American politics consequently has become more divisive than it’s been in over a century. The policies articulated by Donald Trump and Joe Biden haven’t drawn defectors who might help to build a governing majority …, and there isn’t a sufficiently-sized group of like-minded Congressional moderates capable of attracting those further to the right or the left …, although there is a potentially-magnetic, small such grouping.
A well-functioning parliamentary system works when a majority party enlists coalition partners to increase its base … with a resultant tempering of its more extreme policies. Those coalition partners are “keystones,” a useful political concept drawn from architecture, applied to the final pieces put in place during construction at the apex of an arch to lock all the stones into position to support the archway. Well-functioning government in America today requires just such a keystone group to forge a legislative “archway” to pro-actively move America into the future by addressing rather than ignoring America’s problems. The goals of such a key group should be to modify the way America’s Constitutional democracy works by allocating greater political leadership – and power – to Congress, drawing excessive power away from an imperial Presidency, a restructuring previously advocated by TLR in https://blog.thelonelyrealist.com/its-congresss-fault/.
The key to effective American government over the next two years lies in the leadership of Congress …, and the mantle of Congressional leadership rests on the brows of its three “key” Republican Senators: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney (joined, perhaps, by conservative Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Lea Sinema). They are the core “Keynators” who can determine whether – or not – necessary but controversial legislation becomes law … and whether – or not – a host of Executive and Judicial appointments are approved. Should they decide to take the keystone role in American politics, they will become an American shadow parliament, second in power only to the President. It’s of importance that Mitt Romney lead that key group. He is a former Republican Presidential candidate who has the business background, knowledge and experience to forge and lead the group and to command the respect of leaders in both Political Parties. Given the extremes of partisanship and party-line voting by Republicans and Democrats alike, the Keynators in 2021 would be in a position to effectively steer the legislative agenda. In so doing, they might achieve what no other Party or politician can. To a significant extent, they would be able to impose an agenda on both Parties …, a task that could begin as soon as this week should they elect to publish their agenda (perhaps naming it “The Keynators’ Platform for American Growth”). The success of the keystone Senators depends on their recognition that significant stimulus legislation is necessary now – it is –, that America is suffering from potentially catastrophic budget, social and economic problems – it is –, and their determination that those problems can be addressed only by an agenda-ed process that they, and only they, can enable. Post-pandemic America may emerge from 2020 in wonderful economic, social and political shape without any action by Congress, hopefully with a continuing V-shaped economic recovery. The potential failure of such an outcome is not a risk that America’s government should take with Covid-19 raging, unacceptably high unemployment throughout the country, failing businesses and industries, continuing accusations of electoral fraud, and foreign inroads into America’s economic, financial and military hegemony. Only the Keynators are in a position to ensure that a recovery, whether V-shaped or not, is adequately supported by America’s government. A passive approach to these problems is unlikely to work in today’s fraught, high-risk and highly-charged environment.
America’s Political Parties share common goals. Both seek to maintain America’s global dominance. Both prioritize America’s leadership in 21st Century technologies, education, entertainment, finance and manufacturing (among others), areas in which America has historically exceled … although others are rapidly catching up and may soon surpass America n some of those areas To continue as the leader in global business and commerce requires a functioning political system that can … and does … get things done by bridging the partisan chasm divide that gridlocks legislative action. The leaders needed to build that bridge are the Keynators who today have the materials to compel its construction. The best Holiday Gift for America would be their acceptance of that leadership mantle.
Finally (from a good friend)