David Harsanyi / October 14, 2016

Only Gridlock Can Save America Now

When Republicans lost the presidential election back at the Republican National Convention in July, many elected GOPers feigned support for the Party’s doomed nominee in an effort to placate the base and hold their majority in Congress. After watching Donald Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape (honestly, does anyone believe this is the last, or most odious, of the October surprises?), some of these candidates have decided the gambit wasn’t worth it. So naturally, Trump has targeted down-ballot races in his own party — people like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain. As it turns out, cult leaders are less concerned about the long-term philosophical aims of your political party than they are about your personal loyalty and subservience.

When Republicans lost the presidential election back at the Republican National Convention in July, many elected GOPers feigned support for the Party’s doomed nominee in an effort to placate the base and hold their majority in Congress. After watching Donald Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape (honestly, does anyone believe this is the last, or most odious, of the October surprises?), some of these candidates have decided the gambit wasn’t worth it.

So naturally, Trump has targeted down-ballot races in his own party — people like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain. As it turns out, cult leaders are less concerned about the long-term philosophical aims of your political party than they are about your personal loyalty and subservience.

But if the prospects of a Hillary Clinton presidency are truly as apocalyptic as I’m told, shouldn’t Republicans be appalled that their nominee is undermining the only institution in Washington, D.C., that has the power to stop her agenda, should he lose the race? After all, it wasn’t Ryan who coaxed Trump into vulgarity on a hot mic.

I hear this absurd myth every day: “Well, what’s the difference? These cowardly Republicans have given President Obama everything he wanted!”

Elsewhere, I’ve gone into great detail, debunking the idea that Congress has enabled Obama’s agenda in toto — a belief that is pervasive among Trump supporters. In reality, a GOP Congress spent eight years doing the opposite. Not only did it block dozens of progressive initiatives and reforms but it often sued the president for abusing his executive power (and won a host of cases).

These presidential overreaches, incidentally, were necessitated by the GOP’s effective “obstructionism” — which is just another way of describing the manifestation of a divided nation’s will.

Of course this Republican Congress is infuriating. It often fails. It often folds. It creates unrealistic expectations. It struggles to find compelling arguments that appeal to its base. It picks mediocre candidates and is often paralyzed by risk-aversion.

Yet it’s also true that an uncompromising legislative branch stymied an uncompromising ideologue in the White House. I note the former with admiration because, despite the assertions of our political class, the most crucial task of those elected to Congress isn’t to pass minimum-wage laws but to check the power of the executive branch. They did it better than most.

This time around, both of our big-government candidates deserve to grapple with gridlock for the next four years. There’s simply no better antidote to the authoritarianism and corruption that has infected our political causes. In fact, if Republicans somehow hold the Senate, they should also have the spine to preserve the even 4-4 split in the Supreme Court, to stop a potentially progressive judicial branch from further empowering the state.

For those who believe stopping runaway government is a political liability, remember that despite the incessant warnings from Democrats, the GOP was not punished for its obstinacy. It has won two wave elections and more than 900 state seats during the Obama years. Imagine what it could have done with competent leadership.

Moreover, despite more incessant warnings about economic Armageddon, the country did not collapse. Just ask Democrats — because these days they make the most persuasive case for obstruction.

“Real hourly wages have grown faster over the current business cycle than in any cycle since the early 1970s,” Jason Furman, chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, tells us. Thank you, gridlock!

“Under Obama, stock market has tripled, returning an annualized 11.8 percent ex dividends,” says union bailout architect Steven Rattner on Twitter. OK. Thanks again, gridlock!

For the past eight years, Congress has passed absolutely no new economic reforms. I know this because every liberal pundit, every liberal functionary, every elected official in the Democratic Party and virtually every editorial board in the country has argued that Republicans were engaged in an unprecedented obstruction of Obama’s agenda.

Not long ago, Rattner claimed on MSNBC that Republicans had “blocked every single piece, virtually, of legislation that Obama put forward.” So, then, what exactly have Democrats done to make wages grow faster? What have they done to make stocks returns grow at such an impressive pace? They’ve done the best thing possible: nothing.

For some unfathomable reason, not only did Republicans decide to hand the presidency to Hillary Clinton but they’re now cheering a nominee who is urging his fans to destroy that last safeguard.

From a conservative perspective, surely, even a timid Congress is more useful than one that “fixes” Obamacare and overturns the Hyde Amendment and passes anti-gun legislation and revisits cap and trade and proposes dozens of other bills Republicans allegedly haven’t prevented. This is all going to happen if they lose. In the end, Trump won’t only lose the presidency; he will help Democrats create one-party rule.

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