June 30, 2016
In a recent piece in The Atlantic “How American Politics Went Insane,” Jonathan Rauch argues that the bizarre 2016 cycle is essentially the consequence of over-reforming Washington. The problem, according to Rauch, is that when you try to take the politics out of politics nothing gets done. The solution? Bring back pork. Rauch writes:
“For most of American history, a principal goal of any member of Congress was to bring home bacon for his district. Pork-barrel spending never really cost very much, and it helped glue Congress together by giving members a kind of currency to trade: You support my pork, and I’ll support yours. Also, because pork was dispensed by powerful appropriations committees with input from senior congressional leaders, it provided a handy way for the leadership to buy votes and reward loyalists …”
“Party-dominated nominating processes, soft money, congressional seniority, closed-door negotiations, pork-barrel spending – put each practice under a microscope in isolation, and it seems an unsavory way of doing political business. But sweep them all away, and one finds that business is not getting done at all. The political reforms of the past 40 or so years have pushed toward disintermediation – by favoring amateurs and outsiders over professionals and insiders; by privileging populism and self-expression over mediation and mutual restraint; by stripping middlemen of tools they need to organize the political system. All of the reforms promote an individualistic, atomized model of politics in which there are candidates and there are voters, but there is nothing in between.”
Rauch’s analysis is misguided but conservatives ignore his argument at their peril.
Read the full article at Opportunity Lives: No, Reviving Earmarks won’t Revitalize our Democracy