Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Erosion of Congressional Custom & Civility

We often blame hyperpartisanship for Gridlock, but we forget that politics in America has been a contact sport throughout its history. In his interview with Joe Nocera, Congressman Jim Cooper - lonely Blue Dog Democrat - reminds us that you can have disagreements so long as institutional customs and practices channel these differneces into constructive use in the legislative process. Cooper longs for the days when Tip O'Neill made the committee system work and before Newt Gingrich turned every procedural and institutional matter into a partisan issue - like the elimination of a Democratic internal think tank that helped members understand the legislation on which they were voting (Republicans used the service as well). Campaign finance, gerrymandered districts all contribute to a atmosphere were getting the other side sometimes takes priority over the national interest. It is not a pretty picture.

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