An agreement was finally reached to put a stop — temporarily, at least — to the dysfunction gripping our nation’s capital. Yet all that really changes is the urgency of the problem. There are certainly no heroes in this latest development, which re-opens the federal government after a 16-day partial shutdown and raises the debt limit for a few more months.
No, there is nothing to celebrate. The destructive brinkmanship we’ve come to expect from this Congress, primarily driven by the most conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives with a couple of noisy allies in the Senate, has become part and parcel of the way public business gets done — or not done — in this day and age of American politics.
It should be noted that the crusade launched by tea party-supported members of Congress accomplished nothing for their cause. Ultimately, more moderate voices prevailed, but not before the partial government shutdown and the U.S. Treasury reached the brink of a frightening default.
Despite a reprieve from the current crisis, let’s not fool ourselves in thinking that an actual resolution was reached. It was not. The country will potentially be put through the same madness again in early 2014.
The American system of government relies on checks and balances, so a certain amount of partisan political warfare is to be expected. That’s not a bad thing. The problem arises when a radical minority becomes so hellbent on inflicting its will that everyone else is deprived of stable governance. The American system works best when the country is governed from the middle, not from the extremes.
Because of the stark ideological divisions that have produced the current dysfunction, it’s clear that only time — and a new election cycle — can temper the political climate.
A year from now, voters will have another chance to assess their options. For the sake of saner government, we hope they choose wisely.