We Need More Gridlock!

dc_gridlock2_ftI’ve watched most of the GOP debates, and I’ve watched a fair number of the Republican candidates’ press conferences and campaign events, and one of the things I hear Donald Trump saying is that “we need to end gridlock.” His general notion is apparently that in Washington DC, they don’t “get deals done,” or “they make terrible deals,” and the result is gridlock.  Let me be clear about my position on this, Trump’s notions notwithstanding: Our government spends more than $4 Trillion per year, and without such “gridlock” as we have, we would undoubtedly spend more.  Mr. Trump would do much better with conservatives if he finally recognized this and integrated it into his views.  Our problem isn’t gridlock, but a terrible lack of it.

For the last several years, it has been a cooperation between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, working in concert with the Presidents Bush and Obama, to expand the government and to bail out the various entities, and to print money at an unsustainable rate.  It’s easy enough to look at the mess in Washington DC, see that conservative policies never make it into the resulting legislation, and conclude the problem had been “gridlock.” There are many Trump supporters, along with Trump himself, who view this as a failure of conservatism.  In one respect, they’re right, but where they are wrong is in a belief that conservative principles are the problem, or that the relief from “gridlock” will cure the issue.

One can apply this to almost any particular topic, or subject of legislation.  Let us consider the conservative view of taxation.  We’ve certainly had some gridlock on that issue, if your particular preference is to cut taxes.  On the other hand, if you prefer increased taxation, you will note that in various forms, the total taxation by the Federal Government has increased markedly in the era of Obama.  If you’re for significant tax reform, for instance, a “flat tax,” you will believe there is gridlock on this issue.  On the overall issue of taxation, however, there’s been no gridlock: We’re being taxed to death.  This is the problem with the term “gridlock,” and this is the reason it’s such a poor term. It describes a generic sense of inaction in Washington DC, but one can scarcely conclude, looking solely at the expenditures by government, that “gridlock” may exist on issues dealing with reform, but it cannot actually exist when the printing press for government checks is concerned, or where the printing(or digitizing) of new money is under review.

To show the other side of the misuse of “gridlock” in rhetorical flourishes, there are those advocates of an “amnesty” of some sort for the tens of millions of illegal aliens in this country who will insist that we have had “gridlock” on “immigration reform.” Let me state emphatically that with respect to the laws, I will fight fervently to see to it that “gridlock” prevails on this issue, because until we begin to enforce the laws that already exist, and until the “gridlock” in the executive branch is alleviated through an effort at enforcement of existing laws, I’m all for “gridlock” in the matter of “immigration reform.”  The truth is that we do not so much need “immigration reform” as we need “immigration enforcement.”  Listen, however, to the legalization and amnesty crowd, and what you learn is that when they talk about “gridlock,” they mean that they haven’t yet succeeded in legalizing that which had been formerly(and currently) illegal.

These and many more examples like them make plain that “gridlock” is not a problem.  The real problem is that in specific policy terms, our government uses the term “gridlock” to represent inaction on concrete policies that they favor, but the American people do not.  People should be skeptical when politicians talk about a generic “gridlock” without defining the specifics of the stoppage about which they’re concerned.  Too often, politicians have seized upon general sentiments against “gridlock” as the means by which to advance agenda items their voters and supporters would not support.  A great example of that would be Marco Rubio, who ran for his current seat in the Senate, opposing Charlie Crist on the issue of “amnesty,” but who talked about “gridlock” on “immigration reform.”  In his first few years in office, he spent much of his time and energies on the issue of “immigration reform,” attempting to alleviate “gridlock” on the issue, but little had his supporters expected that his proposals would ultimately be tantamount to a full reversal on the issue that had in part propelled him into office.  Of course, Rubio claimed all along that he was working to overcome “gridlock” on the issue. What becomes obvious, however, is that “gridlock” is a matter of perspective, and where one stands regarding an issue dominates whether one will view it in a positive or negative light.

The question isn’t whether we have too much gridlock, but whether it exists in the consideration of the right policies.  When the Republicans, then in the minority in both houses, fought to stop the passage of Obama-care, this was “Gridlock” writ large on the legislative stage, and I don’t know a single person now supporting Trump who wished there hadn’t been more “gridlock” on that issue.  In point of fact, more often than not, most of the people of the United States would be better served by a form of “gridlock” that causes stoppages in the legislative and regulatory processes of our government than by letting them go on in an unrestricted fashion.  Think about all of the stupid laws and regulations streaming out of Washington DC, but imagine there had been sufficient gridlock to stop them. This is the secret that most politicians don’t want you to know about “gridlock:” The constitution is itself a device of gridlock. It’s intended that way, and precisely for all of the reasons I’ve outlined.  The framers had the wisdom to know that “gridlock” impedes sudden and ill-considered change.

Knowing that, I’m in favor of “gridlock” generally, because I know that politicians promoting precipitous change have led us into a quagmire from which we will not easily emerge.  When Washington DC is gridlocked, I know my liberties are still safe, but when the gridlock breaks, my liberties are generally at risk.  The electorate at large has been conditioned to see gridlock as an ill of Washington DC, but the people should learn that gridlock often serves to protect us from the ills of excessive, bloated government, contrary to the impressions that media outlets and DC politicians often create.  If we’re going to talk about alleviating the log-jam in DC, let us be careful to use enough specificity to focus our energies, because otherwise, opportunistic politicians will run with the theme of “gridlock as the enemy” in order to foist all sorts of infamy upon us.  That’s why I rejoice when I see gridlock in Washington DC.  May we have more of it, that we may enjoy its innumerable blessings.


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  • Dave Pavano

    Excellent post Mark…