Washington Is NOT “Broken”
July 2, 2012
I am listening to and watching Morning Joe on MSNBC and one of the participants just said that “Washington is broken; we all know that.” She went on to add that in some areas, D.C. is not “broken.”
Simple argument: Washington is not “broken;” it is oligarchic [or for some democratic]. Why is this an important distinction? Because it reminds us that political analysis ought to focus on and be conducted in political terminology. We speak as if Washington was a machine and that we need mechanics to “fix it.” This is the same kind of argument that was often made against Shrub or Ronald Reagan, viz., that they were not very bright. Often these charges did not stick and so Reagan, for example, was labeled “the Teflon president.” Well, perhaps. But they did not stick because, I think, they were not political terms. Some people, for better and worse, liked Reagan’s politics. Others did not.
So, even if we elect a brighter person, say a person who has a Harvard degree but who is a committed oligarch or a committed democrat, his or her election will not necessarily make things/life better, that is, more just, more equal, more free, more oligarchic [which the oligarchs like], or more democratic [which the democrats like]. In the political world, unlike the “mechanical” world, what matters is politics and political choices. We can go on ignoring this fact of life but we do so at our own peril. At the very least, we will continue to be frustrated by a “system” that seems immune to change. But it is only immune to change because we fail to understand that we need a different politics and different politicians, not a different machine or different mechanics. If you would like to see examples of this phenomenon, just consult the presidencies of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, or Abraham Lincoln. These men did not confuse politics with mechanics and they all took on the prevailing regime and changed it – not so the “system” would “work” better but so the new prevailing political order would be more just, more equal, and/or freer.