Why Has Congress Become More Chaotic?
Jonathan Rauch‘s “How American Politics Went Insane” has drawn much commentary. Rauch argues that Congress is struggling to organize itself, and that a major cause is reforms enacted to ‘clean up’ the institution. So, getting rid of earmarks, demanding more congressional operational transparency, and devolving power from committee chairmen sounded wise, but has proven crazy-making.
“[He sees] the current chaos as a response to too much and too open a democratic system. But there is little evidence for this. The current chaos is instead the logical backlash to the inequalities that the existing power structures have created in order to maintain themselves. What we’re seeing now is what happens when party elites and political leaders ignore the economic concerns of their voters for too long, and then stir up anger and resentment to distract from that fact. It’s a product of too little democratic responsiveness, not too much.”
“Former House Speaker John Boehner was cast aside because enough rank-and-file members were so frustrated by their own sense of powerlessness that they revolted. ‘[Boehner] operated a top-down system,’ complained Rep. Justin Amash, one of the leaders of the House Freedom Caucus. ‘Which means that he figures out what outcome he wants, and he goes to the individual members and attempts to compel and coerce us to vote for that outcome.’ The truth is that an incredible amount of power remains concentrated in congressional party leadership, because of formal rules that the party caucuses have all agreed on as well as continued leadership control over gigantic campaign funding streams.”