Let’s just admit that this arranged marriage isn’t really working anymore, is it? The partisan dynamic in Washington may have changed, but our dysfunctional, codependent relationship is still the same. The midterm results have shown that Democrats have become even more a party of cities and upscale suburbs whose votes are inefficiently packed into dense geographies, Republicans one of exurbs and rural areas overrepresented in the Senate. The new Congress will be more ideologically divided than any before it, according to a scoring system developed by Stanford political scientist Adam Bonica: the Republicans more conservative, the Democrats more liberal.
Come January, we are likely to find that we’ve simply shifted to another gear of a perpetual deadlock unlikely to satisfy either side. For the past eight years, there has been no movement toward goals with broad bipartisan support: to fund new infrastructure projects, or for basic gun-control measures like background checks or limits on bump stocks. Divided party control of Capitol Hill will make other advances even less likely. For the near future, the boldest policy proposals are likely to be rollbacks: Democrats angling to revert to a pre-Trump tax code, Republicans to repeal Obama’s health-care law. By December 7, Congress will have to pass spending bills to avoid a government shutdown. Next March looms another deadline to raise the debt ceiling.
Meanwhile, we have discovered that too many of our good-governance guardrails, from avoidance of nepotism to transparency around candidates’ finances, have been affixed by adhesion to norms rather than force of law. The breadth and depth of the dysfunction has even Establishmentarian figures ready to concede that our current system of governance is fatally broken.