04/07/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Politics Has Lost Its Power. That's Why There's Gridlock

Everybody's beating their breasts about Washington gridlock.

Let's defend gridlock for a moment. The opposite of gridlock was a halcyon time when Lyndon Johnson ran the Senate. But it is worth pointing out that for most of that time and a few decades before, Congress couldn't pass a civil rights law because the Democratic Party was, itself, on this issue, gridlocked. But pay no attention to that. The larger point is that during Lyndon's time politicians had a rapport with each other that could help overcome their ideological differences. Indeed, congressional politicians, as a separate professional class, most living far from their constituents, were much more beholden to each other for their future advancement than they were to the voters. You gotta go along to get along, or some such, was the forever-and ever Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn's fond admonishment.

Given the new, myriad, and instant means of communication, politicians, in our age, have found it necessary to be more responsive to voters than to their colleagues.

This is, at least in pure democratic terms, good. No?

The president is blaming gridlock not on voters but on cable television, from which the most passionate voters get their news and opinions. The president thinks that if the people in Congress would just stop listening to cable television and just go speak to the people, everybody in Congress would get along a lot better.

That is arguable.

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