It is ‘broken,’ but who broke it?

IT IS ‘BROKEN,’ BUT WHO BROKE IT?…. Again, this is the right sentiment, but it’s incomplete.

Vice President Joe Biden doesn’t seem to miss his days as a senator.

In an interview with CBS “Early Show” co-anchor Harry Smith, Biden was blunt about the nation’s political system. “Washington, right now, is broken.”

Having served in the Senate for more than 30 years, Biden has seen a fair share of gridlock in Congress, but the current version is the worst ever, he said.

“I don’t ever recall a time in my career where to get anything done, you needed a supermajority, 60 out of 100 senators…. I’ve never seen it this dysfunctional,” he said.

Right. The system in Washington is “broken.” Every effort does require an inexplicable “supermajority.” The entire policymaking process is “dysfunctional.”

But what officials need to understand is the importance of taking the next step — explaining why this is and who is responsible.

As much as I’m sympathetic to the vice president’s entirely accurate concerns, his omissions make all the difference. For viewers who don’t know what filibusters or cloture votes are, they’re thinking, “There’s a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress. If the system is broken and dysfunctional, maybe it’s Democrats’ fault.”

Except, for anyone interested in reality, that assumption couldn’t be more wrong. If legislation received up-or-down votes in both chambers — the way Congress operated for the better part of two centuries — the system would work quite well and the dysfunction that drives everyone crazy would largely disappear.

Biden, in other words, needs to name names — Republicans broke the American legislative process. They did so deliberately, during a time of crises, because they’re desperate to undercut the Democratic majority, regardless of the consequences. The GOP’s tactics have no precedent in American history, and violate every democratic norm that keeps our system moving.

It’s not enough to share Americans’ disgust; Dems need to help the public understand this mess. They can do so by avoiding jargon and legislative terminology, and calling Republicans’ obstructionist tactics what they are: a dangerous political scandal.

Don’t talk about “filibusters” or “supermajorities”; talk about the Republican “scandal” that has brought the system to a halt. Talk about Republicans “shutting down” the American policymaking process, and ignoring the will of the voters.