How many objections to bills are actually substantive versus functioning as tools in a larger game, aimed at justifying obstructionism or holding votes hostage to try to extract concessions in another policy area?
I don’t know! That’s one of the questions that gnawed at me throughout the exercise. Maybe this is all about politics?
It seems to me there are (at least) 3 main reasons my suggestion is crazy:
- As you say, maybe the system is rarely about substance and it’s naive of me, you, anyone, to think healthy debate can resolve even a tiny number of important legislative stalemates.
- That the vast majority of the public doesn’t care at all, so why put in the effort? Here I would point to Wikipedia as a counter example. The vast majority of people aren’t Wikipedia contributors, but enough people out there are intrinsically motivated to contribute that the system works for everyone. Did Wikipedia sound crazy at the time — “we don’t need to pay experts to compile knowledge, the public will do it FOR FREE”? You bet it did.
- That we should give government, at least the flavor of government that aligns with your politics, the latitude to do whatever needs to be done to implement solutions. Engaging political opponents and keeping the public informed at all is a waste of time. This is a minority view, I think, but it’s out there. Perceived Republican obstructionism of Obama definitely pushed some % of progressives into this camp (“I would trust Obama to do whatever he think needed to be done; he should have that power.”). Of course, this faith in government is ephemeral, lasting only as long as the your party is in power.
All 3 of those are plausible and all 3 sadden me. Perhaps why I devoted so much time to finding “the truth” about this bill. There has to be a there there, I thought. But maybe there’s no there there.