Zero-Sum Politics


    Washington politics are a zero sum game. When one branch gains power, others lose. For example, in the middle of the last century, Congress proved itself unable to deal with civil rights. The Supreme Court eventually stepped in. Congressmen howled about “judicial overreach and activism;” to no avail. With decisions on one-man-one-vote, abortion, equal access to public facilities and right to counsel, the Supreme Court gained power at Congress’ expense.

    In our own era, Americans have witnessed a dysfunctional immigration system for decades. Self-weakened through filibustered gridlock, Congress did nothing. It was inevitable that one or both of the other branches of government would eventually move into the vacuum.

    Far from castigating President Obama for making immigration law through executive action, Congress has only itself to blame. Under our system of zero-sum government, when one branch fails the others will step up. Further inaction due to Republican-led gridlock will inevitably weaken Congress while strengthening the President.

    Such strengthening could, of course, get out of hand. For this reason alone, Congress must reject its zealots and return to producing compromise solutions to vexing national problems. Among the problems on Congress’ plate are unequal tax treatment, political influence spending, and gerrymandering, among others. If Congress fails to act, more Executive Orders and Supreme Court decisions will fill the void.


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