Congress and the White House seem incapable of working together on anything, even when their interests align.With lawmaking at a standstill, the president’s use of executive orders and regulatory discretion has reached a level that Congress views as dictatorial—not that Congress can do anything about it, except file lawsuits that the divided Supreme Court, its three vacancies unfilled, has been unable to resolve.
On Capitol Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan resigned after proving unable to pass a budget, or much else.
The House burned through two more speakers and one “acting” speaker, a job invented following four speakerless months.
He surged into second place by winning independents while losing Democrats.
If it had been up to Democrats to choose their party’s nominee, Sanders’s bid would have collapsed after Super Tuesday.
Nor was there much argument two months later when Jeb Bush, his presidential campaign sinking, used the c-word in a different but equally apt context.
Donald Trump, he said, is “a chaos candidate, and he’d be a chaos president.” Unfortunately for Bush, Trump’s supporters didn’t mind. Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization.The Republicans’ noisy breakdown has been echoed eerily, albeit less loudly, on the Democratic side, where, after the early primaries, one of the two remaining contestants for the nomination was not, in any meaningful sense, a Democrat.Senator Bernie Sanders was an independent who switched to nominal Democratic affiliation on the day he filed for the New Hampshire primary, only three months before that election.Although Capitol Hill and the campaign trail are miles apart, the breakdown in order in both places reflects the underlying reality that there no longer is any such thing as a party leader.There are only individual actors, pursuing their own political interests and ideological missions willy-nilly, like excited gas molecules in an overheated balloon.No wonder Paul Ryan, taking the gavel as the new (and reluctant) House speaker in October, complained that the American people “look at Washington, and all they see is chaos.What a relief to them it would be if we finally got our act together.” No one seemed inclined to disagree.No one wanted that outcome, but no one was able to prevent it.As the presidential primaries unfold, Kanye West is leading a fractured field of Democrats.Party elders have given up all pretense of being more than spectators, and most of the candidates have given up all pretense of party loyalty.On the debate stages, and everywhere else, anything goes. Yes, the political future I’ve described is unreal.