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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 12/21/2010

Is America still 'ungovernable'?

By Jennifer Rubin

"Ungovernable" is what certain liberal elites call our nation when their agenda does not slide through undisturbed by constitutional strictures, Senate rules and the popular will. Conservatives such as Charles Krauthammer and Pete Wehner have scoffed, understandably so, at the notion that not getting one's way amounts to a dysfunctional political system.

I'd argue that American democracy has never functioned better. Oh, I know the No Labels movement will tell you it's all awful and we can't solve our problems. and liberal elites (until they assemble their own 501c4 organizations) will tell you the system is "corrupted" by big money (but not by George Soros's loot, since he's a totally different situation, right?). But let's get real here. We've just seen a huge grassroots movement demonstrate that incumbency is no guarantee of re-election. That election immediately translated into a new agenda for the White House, a bipartisan tax deal, and the defeat of a noxious omnibus spending bill. Isn't this exactly how democracy is supposed to work?

Whether you favor the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" or the DREAM Act, the outcome of these bills was determined by bipartisan majorities in the U.S. Senate. And whether you like the Tea Party agenda or not, it has forced a sea change in the Republican Party and made progress on entitlement reform more than a pipe dream. What's more, bipartisan groups came out with credible debt-reduction (Simpson-Bowles) and entitlement-reform (Ryan-Rivlin) plans, suggesting that there are, in fact, lots of political players willing to make compromises.

In 2012, we're going to have GOP presidential primaries with a dozen or so candidates and a nationwide referendum on ObamaCare, the Bush tax cuts (again) and the appropriate size and scope of government. And oh yes, the federal judiciary -- the very institution that the left has relied upon to opine on every social and political issue -- is going to tell us how far the Commerce Clause will stretch. And like it or hate it, everyone will respect the Supreme Court's ruling. (Unless the entire matter is rendered moot by a repeal or fundamental reworking of the statute.)

Our political system -- messy, contentious, divisive and wondrously democratic -- is to be celebrated. Conservatives didn't say America was "ungovernable" when Barack Obama was elected; they got to work challenging their opponents' philosophy and finding excellent, electable candidates. Maybe liberals should do the same and lay off the Constitution and their fellow citizens. Besides, if all the Obama legislation is so "historic," how can our system be broken? Just asking.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 21, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign, Budget  
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Comments

Not all changes in the Congress I agree with, but your point is well taken. The Founders had devised an ingenious system of governance for a small agrarian nation and it suits us well for a world super power of 310 million people. Huzzah!

Posted by: TheStatistQuo | December 21, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Kevin Williamson, who writes the Exchequer blog at NRO, agrees with the sentiment expressed by our gracious hostess.

His reading of the political landscape is that fear has overtaken the Republican party. Fear for their electability. And that this fear has driven some very necessary changes in DC.
Here's Kevin's own words:
"Something has got into the Republican leadership, and that something is: fear. Wonderful, salubrious fear. For this we can thank the Tea Party movement, for several reasons. The first is that, while our European cousins are out rioting in the street for more and more government spending, the one significant, genuinely popular movement afoot in American politics is demanding the opposite. No Washington poobah wants to get yelled at by rowdy constituents at a town-hall meeting back in the district. They really hate that."

The defeat of the omnibus spending bill was an excellent first step. But we have to do more than just reduce the rate of growth of government, it must SHRINK.

The whining of the liberals is as music to the ears. For the entire Bush admin they engaged in a scorched earth, give the president nothing strategy. Now, as one of Mr Obama's BFF's says, "Those chickens have come home to roost."

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 21, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Looking for the part in the Constitution that mandates unlimited filibusters...

But anyways, there were a hell of a lot of bills that had majorities in the Senate. Some of them as high as 59%. But some how they don't get passed.

But the ungovernable part is the tendency of Americans not to understand the issues as well as their free lunch attitude. Drop my income taxes, but don't you dare cut my services. As long as we have a public that wants this, we're in trouble.

Posted by: DDAWD | December 21, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Gridlock is good for business, so this should be a good 2011, barring any black swan events!

Posted by: 54465446 | December 21, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I'd argue that American democracy has never functioned better.

How can that be when the Federal Govt. is Bankrupt. All its energy is directed towards managing the Bankruptcy. Once the Govt. credit cards are all used,then things will get interesting. Jennifer,you view the world via a prism that has no Economic spectra.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 21, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

So rcaruth, does it make any sense at all to continue to trust the morons who drove the government into bankruptcy?

to the credit of Americans in general and conservatives in particular the answer is a resounding NO.

The Democrats and liberals are still dwelling in denial. they have no idea how to confront the fiscal crisis we now face. thus far their preferred nostrums, tax, spend and borrow, have done nothing to resolve the crisis, nothing.

Based on Einstein's definition, I would argue that the Democrats are insane.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 21, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

So rcaruth, does it make any sense at all to continue to trust the morons who drove the government into bankruptcy?
to the credit of Americans in general and conservatives in particular the answer is a resounding NO.
The Democrats and liberals are still dwelling in denial. they have no idea how to confront the fiscal crisis we now face. thus far their preferred nostrums, tax, spend and borrow, have done nothing to resolve the crisis, nothing.
Based on Einstein's definition, I would argue that the Democrats are insane.
Posted by: skipsailing28

The bankruptcy of the United States has a Factual History that streches back 40 years. At this point,you are not capable of having an adult conversation on Economic history. However,I'll start your education with some clues. Why did Orange County California,one of the richest and most Republican Govt. entities go bankrupt.(1990s) Why did Jefferson County Alabama go Bankrupt?(Recently) Why did Enron go Bankrupt? Once you can discuss these case histories with intelligence,we'll go to the next lesson.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 21, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

40 years? Hmmm. let's see, when did Medicare and Medicaid pass?

Oh yeah, LBJ's war on poverty. Tell me, after trillions being extracted from the producers in American and being showered on the non producers, who won that war?

Based on the liberals continual whining for more of my money, it seems we lost big time.

The simple fact is that the liberals, with the complicity of many Republicans, have used entitlements to destroy us.

Add to that the crooks in the unions who bought politicians with campaign contributions and then got sweetheart contracts and the source of the mess is clear.

The question is what to do. If the politicians have their way folks like you and I will waste time and energy blaming this party or that party when the problem is the government, period.

That's why I admire the tea party so much. Certainly O'Donnell wasn't much of a candidate, the message that was sent to the old guard was clear: RINOs beware.

Now we must confront the fact that there is no more money. The politicians don't want to do that, but the people have spoken. How else to explain the defeat of the omnibus?

Spare me the faux history lesson. The fact is we've been done a serious disservice by an expensive and inept government. Since this is democracy we have none to blame but ourselves.

Let's bring this government to heel. NOW.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 21, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Skip/Spare me the faux history lesson.

I fear that as long as you have the ability to create a historical narrative that is convincing to you,what really happened is not very important.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 21, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

The blogger says "Besides, if all the Obama legislation is so "historic," how can our system be broken?". Well, it's the so called Tea Party and the Republicans who are coming up with all the invention regarding new Constitutional admendments to limit deficits, spending, heck even open up the legislative process to 50 new battlegrounds in each legislature. Yes, they want to make it possible for opponents to federal legislation to continue the fight and if they can win political fights in 2/3 of the states, nullify Congresses action.
These are people who don't want America to continue as a nation. What they will accomplish is an expansion of the lobbying and political consultancy industry in the US (if it remains the US).

Posted by: tigman_2 | December 22, 2010 5:01 AM | Report abuse

Don't these blogger / arguers have enough space on the internet and air ways already? All she does is pic pic what other people (like the First Lady) say to promote something positive for all (like eating habits) that not everyone has had experience with.
Why, 30 years after Reagan is elected we're dealing with "Dusk in America"? Why does the world imagine a world with less America in it? There's a good question! heck, 30 years after FDR America was on the way to the moon! America was a country people around the world woke up and thought about. We acted like we were confident we had a future - hence expansions in Social Security and Medicare. hence a middle class that could own a home and support a family. How bout it blogger?

Posted by: tigman_2 | December 22, 2010 5:45 AM | Report abuse

It's always a pleasure to read good writing and analysis, and I would therefore encourage the author to try to do better. The article, for instance, states that "certain liberal elites tend to call our nation [ungovernable]." Whether our government is functioning adequately is a valuable question to pose, but the author's use of the term "liberal elite" is off-putting. I don't know this cadre of liberal elites, but I do know of NYT columnist Paul Krugman and New Republic contributors Richard Yeleson and Jonathan Chait. I also do not know of a conservative elite, and apparently neither does Ms Rubin. She mentions by name Mr. Krauthammer and Wehner rather than also lumping them into an counterpart amorphous cliche'. I hope Ms Rubin learns to convey her views without the use of pejoratives.

Posted by: ccentner | December 23, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

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