Most Read: Opinions

direct signup

Join a Discussion

Weekly schedule, past shows

The Insiders
Posted at 08:30 AM ET, 01/16/2012

The flaw in American politics

The fog of war in South Carolina is thick, and Mitt Romney’s head appears to be the only thing clearly visible above it all. There is a busy week ahead, and a lot could happen, but Romney has to feel very good as this week starts. Your Insiders will follow the action and offer some insight as events develop.

Carter again raises the persistent and worsening flaw that we both see in American politics. That is, our campaigns are disconnected from our governing. This disconnect is developing in clear view as the presidential campaign continues. The issues most relevant in the 2012 presidential race today range from candidates’ tax returns and private-sector business history to evangelical gatherings and so on. However, the disconnect that emerged in the 2010 elections is about to once again engulf Washington as Congress begins a new legislative session.

The ugly debate about the debt ceiling and the payroll tax cut is about to return in full force. The temporary fix needs fixing again. Much of the GOP caucus is matter-of-fact about sticking by its 2010 campaign pledges to stop raising the debt, stop the spending and start voting against “business as usual.”

So what’s the problem? The problem is that during the campaign, simple, commonsensical promises were made that can’t be kept, given the reality of a divided government and budget math. GOP leaders, pollsters and experts all encouraged these promises; and without them, it is arguable that the Republicans would not have won the majority in the House. After all, no one could get elected by promising to deliver the current state of affairs. If everyone, regardless of party, is against our present circumstances, why do we have the problems we do? I don’t know, but it is clear that we are stuck in a world where the campaigns know that they are being graded on process, debate lines, miscues and the saliency of clever or brutal attacks on opponents. Therefore, our campaigns seek to excel at these things, while the quality of the political and policy content becomes lost and almost irrelevant.

Carter invites comments about how we got here. I join him in that call in the hope that we develop some answers as to how to encourage future campaigns that will build a better foundation and rationale for what our leaders do in government.

By  |  08:30 AM ET, 01/16/2012

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company