The Five-Hundred-and-Thirty-Five Shareholders

A color panoramic view of the US Capitol taken from the driveway circa 1898.
Donald Trump doesn’t know how to share power.  His companies are private and he has never had to be accountable to other stakeholders.  He would be terrible at running a public company.  Now he is the head of the federal government, where the key concepts are “limited powers” and inter-dependency.  Still he behaves as though he’s running the family hotel chain.  Displease the big boss and one’s head will roll.

The situation presents Congress with an unusual opportunity to reclaim its former status as a branch co-equal to the executive.  Trump’s style of administration suggests why the Framers did not go all in for an imperial presidency: to look to the present White House as a source of legislation and policy is sheer folly.  This president may be capable of reforming (that is streamlining) the executive branch, and he may learn how to defend and represent American interests ceremonially.  But, being reluctant to extend his trust to professional experts, his White House is not likely to become a font of innovative and workable legislative initiatives–which, after all, used to be Congress’s domain.

Once upon a time, the Senate was a center of intellectual excellence, where the chief leaders of the states spent endless hours in one another’s company.  It was a tight-knit group, often described as a club, where members knew one another thoroughly, and where they took a strange kind of pleasure in devising bills that would meet the conflicting demands of (wait for it) their constituencies.  The House, the Senate’s more rambunctious sibling, could not equal it in prestige and in certain periods was of such low quality that it could not sustain the interest of the press: quite different from the situation that prevails today.

What will Congress make of this opportunity?  This era could be remembered as one when one-hundred senators and 435 representatives restored Congress’s vitality, when their creative and constructive energies went into crafting workable and forward-looking legislation, and when their power vis-a-vis the presidency earned them the nation’s gratitude and admiration.   The fortunes of the nation would look less bleak if Congress’s full power to work for the good were being deployed.

Image: William Henry Jackson photograph of the Capital taken circa 1898
Published by the Detroit Publishing Company in 1949
The Library of Congress

Should Republicans Dump the Tea Party?

Zachary Taylor uncomfortably balancing atop a scale filled with acrimonious legislators.
The answer is yes, unquestionably.

Dump the Tea Party, and the Republican Party may survive; the faction that is the Tea Party will die.

As it is, the Republican Party is imploding. Yes, on the surface, with Tea Partyiers included, the GOP looks like a majority party.  But what does it matter, when a party’s members cannot agree, when they cannot accomplish anything?

The paralysis gripping the House of Representatives tells the story.  Over the past few years, Tea Party intransigence has scuttled many constructive common-sense measures enjoying the assent of moderate lawmakers.  At the Tea Party’s insistence, the House has approved countless Tea Party-centered bills that then die because they are so far out of the established mainstream.  Americans want Obamacare; they want the federal government to continue to run; and, yes, Americans would rather have federal debt than to bring a protective Union to its knees.  Yet the Tea Party has striven again and again to demolish elements of federal governance that generations of responsible lawmakers and jurists have painstaking built up.

The speaker’s contest gearing up in the House showcases the dilemma of a party that cannot control or even influence its own destructive minority wing.

Yet some of the leading figures of this do-nothing faction are now gunning for the Presidency, figures like Mario Rubio and Ted Cruz, so naïve and uncooperative (and in the case of Cruz so despised by his Republican colleagues) that they are incapable of collaborative achievement.  Out of sync with everything but their own narcissism, these candidates would make poor presidents, since they haven’t a clue as to how to marshal party power.

Dumping the Tea Party would be painful for the GOP establishment but would leave the GOP free to forge legislation with centrists on the other side of the aisle.  In terms of presidential politics, a purge would reassure moderate voters, who might respond surprisingly positively to this disinterested gesture of patriotism and good will.

The Tea Party are anti-federalists whose views, goals, and tactics jeopardize the power and integrity of United States. Cut the Tea Party adrift, and be the Grand Old Party again.

Image: “Congressional Scales” (1850),
published by the firm of Nathaniel Currier, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Click here to go to the source.

The cartoon shows President Zachary Taylor uncomfortably balanced atop a scales filled with acrimonious legislators.  He holds two controversial pieces of legislation as weights.  Political opponents in the scales taunt one another, one declaring that ‘We can hold out as long as they can’; another that ‘My patience is as inexhaustible as the federal treasury.’

Another Illinois politico goes down

Cameramen waiting for Hastert, © 2015 Susan Barsy

June 9.  The cameramen shooting the breeze near the entry to the Dirksen Federal Courthouse meant that something big was happening.  It turned out to be the arraignment of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Continue reading