Congressional gridlock could be resolved if more Americans heeded Madison’s simple and straightforward explanation of the federal relationship:
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those … in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which … concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”
The left deplores Madison’s words because it hates constitutional limitations on the freedom to tax, spend and legislate. So it has invented living document theory (the Constitution means whatever we want it to mean) and turned federalism upside down.
Subsequently, federal government has ballooned from a handful of essential manageable functions, to one of unlimited scope, undefined mission and uncontrolled debt and spending.
As progressives and socialists estranged themselves from the founding principles of limited constitutional government, they created a divide with those who did not. That chasm has grown unbridgeable. Irreconcilably divergent political philosophies make finding consensus impossible.
Lawmakers must choose between fiscal responsibility and constitutional oaths, or satisfying the endless budgetary and legislative demands of the left. Perpetual gridlock and shutdowns are the new norm.
People blame Congress. But Congress is dysfunctional because the people demand the impossible. We can’t have both liberty and cradle-to-grave security, or generous spending with low taxes, or show compassion to children by loading them with debt. And does anyone actually believe that health-care costs, or anything, can be reduced through massive government intrusion?
Responsibility for today’s gridlock falls by definition on the left that has turned the federal government into a playground for social engineering.
Solving the problem will require more of progressives than beating down the opposition through emotionalist demagoguery and endless government shutdowns. More wisely, they must heed Madison’s words (and the plain wording of the Constitution) and stop asking the federal government to do that for which it was not designed and can never be competent.
By being content with a narrower, more efficient, more constitutional set of federal functions, they can make it possible for all Americans to actually find some common ground.
I wonder which path they’ll choose.