Podcast Episode 5 — Elaine Kamarck Connects the Dots
“When politicians can’t get anything done, it breeds distrust. It breeds anger.” — Elaine Kamarck
That was a key insight from Episode 5 of The Long Game podcast.
My story on a Ted Cruz aide’s critique of Jeff Flake illustrates how Cruz has been a major cause of gridlock in Congress.
Cruz has made being a “fighter” the signature of his career in national politics so far, no matter how seemingly hopeless or quixotic the stated goal. And for Cruz, fighting means refusing to accept anything other than total victory. So far, that approach has garnered him plenty of national attention and made him the runner-up to Trump for the Republican presidential nomination last year. But he has done little to work with Democrats to find solutions to problems facing all Americans, which is the function of the Senate.
Unkept promises are one big reason why voters are angry. But politicians have made promises they can’t keep. Cruz has been the most prominent practitioner of this type of
Cruz has treated the Senate as a platform rather than as a mold, which was one of the key insights from Yuval Levin in Episode 2 of the podcast.
There’s a lot of connections here, with the insights from the podcast informing what I’m writing, and vice versa.
I had a meeting with a U.S. senator this afternoon who is concerned about the health of our Republic (he’ll likely be on the podcast soon enough). As our time drew to a close, he read me a quote from a speech Abraham Lincoln gave in 1838, in which Lincoln lamented a growing problem with mob justice.
“By such examples, by instances of the perpetrators of such acts going unpunished,” Lincoln said, “the lawless in spirit, are encouraged to become lawless in practice; and having been used to no restraint, but dread of punishment, they thus become, absolutely unrestrained. Having ever regarded Government as their deadliest bane, they make a jubilee of the suspension of its operations; and pray for nothing so much, as its total annihilation.”
When I heard the line about those who regard government as “their deadliest bane,” I thought of how too often conservatives have, in railing against government, fit this description. That’s not an indictment of a small government philosophy, but of the attitude that has sprung up among many that government can do no good.
I read the entirety of Lincoln’s speech. Near the end, he gives a moving description of how the deaths of those in the Revolutionary generation had deprived American society of a living memory of the ideals which animated their historic achievement.
They were a fortress of strength; but, what invading foe-men could never do, the silent artillery of time has done; the levelling of its walls.They are gone. They were a forest of giant oaks; but the all-resistless hurricane has swept over them, and left only, here and there, a lonely trunk, despoiled of its verdure, shorn of its foliage; unshading and unshaded, to murmur in a few more gentle breezes, and to combat with its mutilated limbs, a few more ruder storms, then to sink, and be no more.
Lincoln concluded his thought with this:
“They were the pillars of the temple of liberty; and now, that they have crumbled away, that temple must fall, unless we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason.”
“When politicians can’t get anything done, it breeds distrust. It breeds anger … The weakening of parties … most people think it’s a good thing,” Elaine Kamarck says. But, she warns that “the weakening of parties has meant the weakening of government. People don’t like that, but very few people see the connection between political parties and government.” Kamarck, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and a Democratic National Committee member and superdelegate, talks about her proposal to have a party gathering prior to the presidential primary to vote on potential candidates. But she says she doesn’t care if superdelegates go away. She also says she doesn’t fault Reince Priebus for not doing more as RNC Chairman to block Donald Trump from the nomination.
- “Re-inserting peer review in the American presidential nomination process,” by Elaine Kamarck
- “Primary Politics: How Presidential Candidates Have Shaped the Modern Nominating System,” by Elaine Kamarck
- “20 of America’s top political scientists gathered to discuss our democracy. They’re scared.” — Sean Illing, Vox
- “How Autocracy Rises: What Institutional Failure Really Means,” Umair Haque
- “Is the American Idea Doomed?” Yoni Applebaum, The Atlantic
- Opening music: “Safe If We Don’t Look Down (Imagined Herbal Flows Remix)” — Mutemath
- Closing music: “Changes” — Mutemath