In general, I’m not comparing the ambitions of Barack Obama and Putin. But Russian politics offers us another lesson on why gridlock is more useful than destructive. The Founders erected an elaborate system of checks and balances to impede the flood of power, bad ideas, and passions, the exigency of overcoming “gridlock”—the “fierce urgency” to get things done, as Obama might put it, seems trumps all other concerns here at home. Polarization in Washington is an organic safeguard against one party’s ability to fundamentally changing the institutions of the country, yet we’re schooled to be repelled by it. In a 2013 Gallup poll 78 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress was handling its job. The top concern offered was partisan gridlock. Other polls find that upwards of 95 percent have negative view of the GOP congress – who they blame for creating gridlock when, in fact, a diverse electorate is the guilty party.
Putin’s reprehensible play in Crimea exposes some of the problems with our knee-jerk support for majoritarianism, both internationally and domestically. It should be noted that Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov is leader of the “Unity” party. And today, he actually enjoys unity. Over 95 percent of the Crimean voters voted “yea” in the referendum to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. From what I’ve gathered listening to Washington over the past 15 years, self-determination is a worthwhile enterprise.