Washington avoided a credit default, but legislators put off the hard work and outsourced the decisions we elected them to make
America voted for divided government. President Obama labeled it "dysfunctional."
Divided, yes. Dysfunctional? Not remotely. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, the past few weeks of budgetary spats were hardly the most passionate in our history.
The Nevada Democrat reminded skeptics of the infamous beating on the Senate floor in 1856 of Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts by South Carolina's Rep. Preston Brooks during a debate over the Kansas-Nebraska Act and slavery. Brooks clubbed Sumner with a heavy cane so severely that Sumner was momentarily blinded by the blood of his head wounds. So, Reid has a point. This summer, the nation was shoved to the brink of default and economic chaos, but no lawmaker was beaten to a bloody pulp.
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No maiming and no default, therefore, have become the new and lowly benchmarks of congressional comity. But at one level, what can the nation expect? It has witnessed three consecutive wave elections--two with powerful Democratic tides and one with a countervailing Republican tide. From such forces, passion and legislative impatience arise. Inclinations set in motion by the first two waves led to an expansion of government via the stimulus, health care overhaul, and Wall Street regulation. The counterforce of the midterm GOP wave wrought fights over the continuing resolution to head off a government shutdown; a new House budget that uproots fee-for-service Medicare; and, just now, the debt-ceiling cage match (with Twitter feeds, not canes).