Two decades ago, there was a concerted push to limit the terms of U.S. House and Senate members. A number of states passed resolutions instructing their representatives to vote only for the specific limits outlined in their resolution.
Representatives followed the instructions, introduced term limit bills, demonstrated their oratory skills and showed the folks back home that they were following the people’s will. And every bill failed, because various states had different versions. By forbidding compromise, they ensured failure.
That was the first step on the road to Donald Trump.
Americans want their doctors to be highly qualified. Same for teachers, accountants, plumbers and every other profession that directly touches our lives. But when it comes to making law, there is a strong belief that amateurs can do a better job than those with knowledge and experience.
The term-limit movement failed at the federal level. Its cousin, the tea party movement, did not. It has largely succeeding in cleansing Congress of moderates, replacing them with strict ideologues who refuse to budge from principle. A similar, less organized effort from the left had the same effect on Democratic moderates.
The inevitable result: the same sort of gridlock that doomed the term-limit movement. Lawmakers on both sides, fearing more from a primary challenge in highly gerrymandered districts, dig in their heels and refuse to budge. Compromise becomes a dirty word, the territory of slick and untrustworthy politicians.
Voters, who for the most part want things to work, ensure that they won’t by voting for candidates who talk tough and promise to shake things up.
Which leads us to Donald Trump, who has shown over and over that he doesn’t understand intricate issue, nor does he care to learn. But he can sure talk tough.
So want to know what happens if he moves into the White House? Nothing. The president is not a CEO, able to unilaterally make things happen. He needs Congress to work with him. Think that’s going to happen? Just look at the past six years, and you have your answer.
I want our federal government to work. I want elected officials to find solutions, to get things done and not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Half a loaf is fine. But we won’t get there as long as talking tough wins more votes than talking smart.