Big Bang

Like a lot of other gabbers, I’ve been following the debate over Matt Yglesias’ “American Democracy is doomed” piece at Vox. I don’t much buy the idea that military coups or revolutions are going to break out in the foreseeable future, but think it’s even less likely this country is going to decide to adopt (and more to the point, figure out how to set up) an entirely different governing system.

But the gridlock Yglesias and others are writing about is a very real thing with no particular remedy available until such time as one party or the other pulls off a landslide election. And at some point the anticipation of such elections could become the driving force in American politics as ideologues hold out for maximum achievement of their agendas during brief periods when the opposition is powerless to stop them. Lest we forget, that was in the works in 2012 as Republicans, hoping for a presidential win and a Senate takeover, feverishly worked on a plan to implement the Ryan Budget and repeal Obamacare in a lightning strike via a single budget reconciliation bill.

This all-or-nothing sentiment reinforces, of course, day-to-day gridlock. Why disappoint your “base” with compromises when you could be revving them up for that great gettin-up morning when all your dreams can come true?

I don’t think Democrats are thinking this way just yet–other than in retrospective criticism of their party for partially squandering the 2008 landslide–but there’s not much question Republicans are.

I wrote this all up for my weekly column at TPM under the headline: “The Big Bang Theory of Polarization: How Gridlock Has Remade Our Political Process.” I had hoped they’d adorn it with a photo of Sheldon Cooper, but they instead went with the gridlock metaphor and showed a traffic jam. So here goes:

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.