Every now and then, it happens. A used-car dealer, a realtor or some hack pushing an extended warranty on a food processor sighs and admits, “Yeah, you’re right. This is no good. You shouldn’t be taken in.” And now, a U.S. senator has done the same.
West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, according to The New York Times, told his pals in the Senate, “This place sucks.” Now Manchin is offering more details. What sucks? The tendency of party bosses on the far left and far right to decide which issues get introduced, debated and voted on; the way this practice crushes any spirit of cooperation in the chamber; and the manner in which it all strangles any hope of actually accomplishing something. Summing it up, Manchin told CNN, “I said the place sucks when it doesn’t work.”
Coming in the wake of what now seems to have been an entirely pointless government shutdown, it’s a sentiment I’m sure many voters share. Year after year, they endure breathless political ads from candidates in both parties promising to “change the D.C. culture” or “get things done” or “break the deadlock.” Then they trudge to the polls, cast their ballots and slog home through a flood of disappointment as the party leaders instantly go back to business as usual.
I don’t think hardcore conservatives or liberals care much about this. Sure, they talk about their concern for America’s future, but experience has taught me the only deals they really like are those they can claim as their own. So they go on clinking glasses and cheering every time the polls show their side with a slight advantage, even as public approval of Congress hovers in the teens.
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One could argue ideologues on the left and right have effectively hijacked the democracy — twisting the very process of governing to marginalize any talk of compromise and destroying any champions of such an idea. This is why every vote for “change” — from the left or right — for the foreseeable future will continue to end in bitter frustration. Because too many of the top political power players don’t want anything to do with it, unless their side is sure of absolute victory in the end.