Charles Wheelan, author of the book, The Centrist Manifesto, recently published an article on U.S. News in which he describes the current hyper-partisan political environment in Washington as “Tom and Jerry” politics.
Wheelan argues that lawmakers in Congress act exactly like policymakers in parliamentary systems, where the minority party spends most of its time trying to thwart the agenda of the majority party because the minority party doesn’t really have much authority in these systems. The majority party chooses the prime minister and essentially makes all the rules.
However, as he points out, we do not have a parliamentary system. The minority party, like the majority party, has a responsibility to govern:
The two parties have drifted apart ideologically, limiting areas of cooperation. Each party sees the opportunity of “winning” the government. Each is acting as if we are in a parliamentary system – but to remind you, we do not have a parliamentary system.
Instead, we are trapped on a political path to nowhere. Whatever party is out of the White House seeks to get back in by hobbling the president’s agenda (even when they agree with parts of it). Both political parties are willing to sacrifice sensible governance in the short run in the naive hope of complete control in the future.
But we’ll never get there. Neither party is going to win the White House and veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate. Instead, it’s like the “Tom and Jerry” cartoons I used to watch as a kid. Sometimes the cat chases the mouse; sometimes the mouse chases the cat. But nothing of substance ever happens. Let me be explicit here: It’s bad when our government closely resembles a “Tom and Jerry” cartoon.
The system is responsible for what we are seeing now: an opposition party that is breathtaking in its efforts to foil the president’s agenda (Iran), and a president willing to govern alone to the extent the Constitution will allow him (immigration).
When power shifts, we just repeat the process. (The mouse chases the cat for a while.) – Charles Wheelan