No one should be surprised that many of the most serious issues we face in this country — the cost of health care, the wickedness of our relationship with the House of Saud, our addiction to electronics and Chinese plastic and junk food — are never meaningfully addressed by politicians. They don’t need to be. The question is why the rest of us bother paying attention to what they choose to do with their authority instead. The proceedings might occasionally rise to the interest of a low-level soap opera — Cohen was, gasp, lying again! — but they have very little to do with what we tell ourselves we are sending people to Congress for.

Until our politicians begin offering us competing visions of the common good, ideas and policies that we can consider and either support or reject, Americans have no reason to take Washington seriously. Until the American people reject the nihilism of partisan total war for its own sake, politicians will continue to devote all their energies to investigating and obstructing.

This is what we call a stalemate. Maybe it’s time to start playing a different game.