Not a day passes without some pundit or politician lamenting the diminished comity of our political system. They blame the dysfunction of our government on gridlock and partisanship.
They wax nostalgic over the halcyon days of political amity, where genial congressmen of rival parties locked arms and marched to solve our nation’s problems. Their perfervid prayer is that peace will once again break out on Capitol Hill, allowing the chivalric Congress to speed through cures for all our ills.
Wake up, folks. This Panglossian dreamland never existed and likely never will. The only time Congress cooperates for more than a few crisis-driven days is when one of its political parties has surrendered and adopted the premises of the opposition. In the past, it was invariably the Grand Old Party going along to get along. Truckling Republican myrmidons would radiate gratitude and pride when they were lauded by the media and liberal establishment for their “growth” and open-minded approach to governing. Usually these encomia followed Republican votes to raise taxes and raid the public treasury.
But then, in 1994, everything changed. Republicans sought power not as a more competent version of welfare-state Democrats, but as a new force dedicated to eradicating decades of federal government bloat. Conservatives, who for years yearned for a Republican Party truly dedicated to reverse the entropic slide of our nation, saw the rise of new leaders opposed to getting along or going along, when along meant the propping up of socialism or the assault on traditional values.
But, as Republican recalcitrance toward Democratic nostrums failed to yield to Beltway establishment demands, a new battle cry was heard inside the hallowed halls of Congress: Bitter gridlock has disabled our federal government; thus, we must return to the days of peace and cooperation.
Our society cherishes peace. But, we also value truth. What happens when these two fundamental values are at conflict?
The Jewish sages of antiquity bequeath to us a most fascinating lesson from the hermeneutical work Midrash Rabbah. In the metaphoric telling of the story, as God prepared to create the first man, Adam, the angels representing creation’s core values voiced their opinions.
Lovingkindness and Righteousness begged the Master of the Universe to bring Adam into the world, as he would perform acts of kindness and charity. On the opposite side, Truth and Peace decried man’s creation, saying he will lie and wage war. Seeing His counselors evenly split, the Lord cast Truth out of Heaven and created man.
The sages explain that there are times when peace and truth will conflict, and our natural inclination to favor truth is not always the right approach. There are times when peace takes precedence over truth. For example, what should you do if your brother came to visit accompanied by his newly wedded bride? You haven’t had a chance to meet the young lady, but as they enter your home, you see she is physically grotesque. Crossing the threshold, your brother asks “isn’t she the most beautiful bride you have ever seen?” Do you stick with truth? “No, she is hideous beyond measure!” Or, do you stick with peace? “She is lovely.” Of course, you opt for peace. Peace wins over truth. But not always.
There are times when peace cannot prevail. Comity in our national legislature, when that peace brings nefarious results, is one of those times. When members of Congress are getting along, they are usually busy doing things that cost us money. Frequently, they cost us our freedoms.
Since the Democrats’ governing premise is that the state be involved in every aspect of our lives, the only partisan cooperation possible is when Republicans agree. Once the GOP acquiesces in these liberal preconditions, all that remains is a competition to see who can more competently steer the moliminous ship of state. Since you can’t beat a man at his own game, Republicans usually lose that one. Actually, the losers are all of us.
Now that Republicans won’t go along, they are viewed as obstructionist and derided for ruining the congenial atmosphere that allegedly prevailed for so long in our nation’s capital. The revisionists ignore history and reality. When members of Congress used crossed swords to sort out their differences, was this an example of cooperation and peace? Over the centuries, our representatives have often stood firmly and vociferously by their positions, hurling invective at their opponents and freely using epithets that would make contemporary congressmen blush. Yet these legislators were never traduced like their descendants.
It is uncomfortable to hear, but it must be said. Gridlock is good. When they don’t get along, they can’t pass bills to spend our money, take on more debt, debase our currency, raise our taxes, weaken our defenses or emasculate our civilization. The more the Congress fights, the better our chances to survive their harebrained schemes.
Here’s to congressional gridlock, savior of the republic.