It is fashionable these days to say that America’s political system is broken. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. America’s system of government with its checks and balances is working just fine.
The executive branch develops policies and interacts with Congress in an attempt to transform those policies into tangible programs and laws. Congress does or doesn’t cooperate with the executive branch as is its prerogative and Constitutional duty. The Judicial branch, the Supreme Court being the cherry on top, jumps into the action to assure that what the Executive branch has proposed to Congress and what Congress has turned into law conforms with the Constitution and legal precedent.
Do all these components work in perfect harmony? Hardly. But they do work in harmony nonetheless. Do gears grind? Absolutely. All gears grind when they lack sufficient lubrication. In this context, call that lubrication “compromise,” or “reason,” or “common good.” Does the system suddenly, seemingly without warning, shift into reverse? Of course it does. After all, it was born with a reverse gear (call it “filibuster,” call it “veto,” call it “decision" or "verdict”) and many would think it a shame to waste it.
Still, this brilliant triumvirate of power is a well-oiled machine, doing precisely what it is supposed to do. Therefore, when critics of the system speak—and speak they do with predictable and loud regularity—they are in fact not finding fault with the system itself but with its output. Critics don’t like the hands they are dealt. It’s as simple as that.
You know the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” What might be more apt here is, “If it ain’t broke, you can’t fix it.”
But the good news is, we can fix the output. In sports, it’s often the coach who gets axed when a team’s output is unsatisfactory. In politics, it’s the president. Or the party that controls the House and/or the Senate. Keep in mind, too, that if the Supreme Court isn’t working according to your plan, it’s because the president, whom you may or may not have voted for, nominated someone whose output you now find you don’t like, and Congress, whom you may or may not have elected, confirmed that justice’s nomination.
In short, our political system is not broken. Quite the contrary, it’s an incredible machine, which is as much a work of genius today as it was when it was invented nearly two and half centuries ago. We all just need to spend a lot more time reading the instructions.
© Daniel Bruce Brown, 2012
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