America the Ungovernable?

You can't push the American people around forever.

Over the last few weeks, a new meme has popped up and taken firm root in the mainstream media: the idea that America is currently ungovernable.  Here we have a President and Congress from the same party, with overwhelming majorities, and yet somehow they don't seem able to enact their policy goals!  From eliminating union secret ballots to cap-and-tax to Obamacare, many of the most significant laws proposed by Mr. Obama have hit the rocks or seized up entirely.

Yet our nation's manifold problems remain, un-addressed by Congress.  Is it time for a Constitutional convention?  Or do the elites simply need to import an entire new electorate more to their taste, as England's Labour government has been doing?

No.  We do indeed have a highly dysfunctional government and America is indeed at risk because of it, but it's not because America is ungovernable.  The current administration hasn't even tried to govern as Americans understand the term.

What Mr. Obama and his fellow liberal elites have tried to do is to rule - and yes, that isn't going to work.  Americans want to be governed, but they do not want to be ruled; when somebody tries to impose an authoritarian rule on them, they tend to get, well, unruly.

The Consent of the People

Mr. Obama famously expressed his view of how his government operates when he responded to Republican criticism with a simple phrase:

I won.

Yes, he did - just like almost every other president we've ever had, not counting JFK's stolen election.  He may have lied to do it, but he didn't cheat: people pulled the lever for him fair and square.

The same is true for almost all of his Democratic majority.  Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, they too were legitimately elected by majorities of their constituents.  They do, indeed, have the full right to the power they enjoy under the Constitution.

There's the rub: under the Constitution.

When George Washington, the Father of his Country, achieved victory over the British at Yorktown, there was a crown his for the asking.  Had he wished it, he could without the slightest trouble become King George I; in fact, many of his peers expected and urged him to.  The Revolution wasn't begun against the idea of kings in general, but of kings and Parliaments that wanted to impose their will on the people regardless of what the people thought.

King George Washington would never have been an autocrat like a czar, but a constitutional monarchy like England now has would have been perfectly acceptable to the nation.  It's to Washington's everlasting credit that he soundly rejected this personal glory; instead, we have a republican democracy, in which the people choose their own rulers who then swear an oath to obey the written limits of the Constitution.

Where in the Constitution is the government granted the authority to require people to purchase health insurance?  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi not only doesn't know, she doesn't even accept it as a valid question.  When asked, her only response was a derisory

Are you serious? Are you serious?

Barack Obama may be the president, but he is not the King, nor is he a dictator.  What he says goes in relation to our military, for good or ill - he is the Commander in Chief, designated so by our Constitution.  In all other matters, he is obliged to uphold his oath to follow the law and honor the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

Technically, it may indeed be possible to ram Obamacare through via back-door maneuvering.  Considering that two-thirds of Americans want the bill scrapped, would that be the act of a leader who wants to govern a free people?  No - it is the iron-fisted determination of one who wants to rule over a land populated by subjects who do as they are told and take what they are given.

Bill Clinton was no conservative, but he understood the difference.  He, too, tried to ram Hillarycare down our throats, and discovered America to be an unruly nation that wouldn't tolerate such arrogance.  Unlike Mr. Obama, he quickly changed tack and started governing - listening to the voters and their elected representatives, enacting compromises, where necessary persuading the people that his way was best.  Despite his personal immorality, he is to this day remembered as a pretty decent President.

The United States of America is indeed governable.  When politicians start complaining that it is not, it's a clear sign that they don't want to govern at all, but that they would rather rule by force and fiat.

Our media may wish their beloved liberal icons could simply speak the word and make all their statist dreams come true, but they'd do better to consider what happens to media outlets in countries that are run that way.  When the jackboots come down, journalists are the first to get crushed.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments
Great summary on the current February/March doldrums in Washington. We are very governable - the elites just need to sit down, shut up and let America return to its former glorious self. America doesn't work with elites and a ruling class and Washingtonian snobbery. It works with INDEPENDENT thinkers and workers.
March 10, 2010 8:49 AM
I hope that the president of America Mr. Obara Will take an action against worlds major problems.
March 10, 2010 9:16 AM
Clinton 'a pretty decent president'? The person who crippled our security and did most of the groundwork for the 9/11 conspirators? The person whose aggressive insistence on granting mortgages to all, even if you're getting foodstamps? The person who backed up one bogus multibillion dollar loan after another to the oligarchs of Russia and any other freeloaders who came down the pike?

No, he wasn't a pretty decent president. He was a horrendously bad president. Oh, and he was a sex addict and a liar too.
March 10, 2010 12:05 PM
An "ungovernable" America may actually work in our favor. The coming bankruptcy of the US government as we know it may lead to a "partitioning" (note I didn't use the "s" word) into smaller, easier to "manage" (note I didn't say "govern") sovereign territories (note I didn't say "nation-states").

With that loss of unsustainable empire will come improved economic systems, stable currencies, a philosophy of non-intervention, and restoration of lost freedoms, as things like the DHS, TSA, and the Patriot Act will become distant memories.

What's not to like?

The last pre-soviet empire to collapse (Rome) led to 1000 years of darkness. We've more in common with Rome than the former USSR. I'd like to avoid that fate.
March 10, 2010 12:07 PM
Sajidkhan - Mr. Obama cannot of himself take action against the world's problems. To spend money, he has to ask Congress to vote to give him some. There are things he can do, but he can't take any serious actions by himself.

If you were advising him, however, what would you suggest that he do to solve the world's problems?

Han Fei

Those who regard Clinton as a decent president tend to know very little about foreign affairs. Domestically, he presided over an economic boom. As you so correctly point out, with respect to foreign affairs, he was more of a disaster than Carter, which is a high standard to meet.
March 10, 2010 4:36 PM
sounds like most of agree the past presidents have been pretty's not just loss of liberties, or spending, or foreign wars, arrogance 7 irrationality, idiocy or compulsive behaviors, but all the above: why Americans love putting one fool in the Whit House, then reneging and sending another fool....if there is one saving grace it is that the Democrats cannot agree on anything; when Republicans ran the circus earlier in the decade all kinds of nastiness erupted, such as wars, spending, the un-Patriot Act, the TSA, Sarbanne Oxley, not to mention torture: disagreement may not effect an effective Congress, but it's better than the alternative nuts who see the American people as fodder for their controls.
March 10, 2010 8:00 PM
The Times is griping about gridlock again, just because the Republicans won't go along with their wacko liberal ideas:

A One-Track Senate
A 1970s fix for filibusters has helped cause today's Congressional gridlock.

Gridlock is good! The fewer laws they pass, the less we get hurt.
March 10, 2010 9:13 PM
Perhaps the greatest hindrance to good governance today is the Republican Party, which has adopted an agenda of pure nihilism for naked political gain. The most bizarre feature of post-Massachusetts political spin is that President Obama has done a poor job of reaching across the aisle. But any regular observer of Washington would conclude that congressional Republicans have no desire to be reached out to-because they aren't actually very interested in governing the country.

Take health care. During the 2000s, when the GOP held sway in Washington, they did nothing to arrest rising health-care costs or the uninsured population, which jumped from 39 million to approximately 46 million. Modest proposals to extend government-subsidized care for children were opposed and the extension of Medicare drug benefits did not help the larger health-care system
March 11, 2010 12:39 AM
careful, Mr Shahzad: on this forum, Republicanism & Mssrs Bush Cheney are the unified deities- thou shalt have no other gods... even if they are war lovers, hate lovers, government lovers and anti-citizen, anti-capitalist & let's give the voters a false sense of security while suspecting everyone of being a terrorist paragons of the mind-set known as "statist", wherein rules are the order of the new millennium, and the more the better.
No, I think they are the evil side of the government coin, the other which side of which is just as bad, just more overt.. joke, get it? overt.. obverse?
Oh, well, like any good revolutionary, I bide my time while the fools self-destruct, though some are capable of introspection and role reversal, and even possess logic, which maybe when integrated into their values will effect a rational conclusion that this is the decade of False & Foolishness, and perhaps a phoenix of Reason will prevail.. a man can dream~!
March 11, 2010 9:01 AM
I think Mr Obama is under pressure of Israelians and he can't make satisfaction decission for Americans. Americans now know that they must make care their family from destruction of war that always do by Americans troop in other country.
March 20, 2010 4:39 AM
I hope obama can be a good leader
March 21, 2010 11:55 AM
He can lead only when he stops trying to rule. A good leader listens to his people. A ruler need not listen; he can do as he likes. Obama has not listened. I don't know if he can. If he can't, he can never lead, only rule, and Americans don't appreciate being ruled.
March 21, 2010 12:50 PM
He can lead only when he stops trying to rule. A good leader listens to his people. A ruler need not listen; he can do as he likes. Obama has not listened. I don't know if he can. If he can't, he can never lead, only rule, and Americans don't appreciate being ruled.
March 21, 2010 12:50 PM
It's a lot more simple than this. It is difficult to govern America when policies go against powerful corporate interests. Ultimately government and corporations are in bed together. This article just sounds like a anti-Obama republican talking point that distracts Americans from what the rest of the world can transparently see.
March 21, 2010 9:16 PM
The article is so clearly partisan provocation, that it doesn't really deserve any mature individual's response. Once partisanship takes hold, compromise and rationality are thrown out of the window for a sort of secular us/them orthodoxy, and it's all about proving one's point instead of getting to the truth.

The primary issue then, for me, is this toxic partisanship. What we have learned here in the United States is that Partisanship, is the American way. Though the disease set in early (Jefferson I'd say) it doesn't have to be the case. It can be excised. It isn't necessary to the degree that we experience it, and it is the cancer that is eating away at the democratic system. Unfortunately it is tied into our self-image as "free men", as a country that found its "manhood" by rebelling against England, by the perceived necessity of fighting for justice. (Canada on the other hand found it's "manhood" without war. But that's another story.) That consciousness, that we must fight each other to win what's rightfully ours, that we must create a winners/losers paradigm in our political process instead of us all working together to achieve a common goal, is at the heart of what makes America so difficult to govern, and yes it is at the heart of our culture. In my judgement, Barack has done more to avoid that mentality than any President in my lifetime.
March 23, 2010 2:47 PM
"What we have learned here in the United States is that Partisanship, is the American way... Unfortunately it is tied into our self-image as "free men"."

No problem: we just have to give up our self-image as free men, and partisanship will end. Well, you're in luck - Obama is working overtime at accomplishing just that. A few more years of this and there won't be partisanship anymore, just like there wasn't in the Soviet Union or Communist China. Mission accomplished!
March 23, 2010 3:23 PM
I think what WT meant was the use of pejoratives like "Liberal" et cetera when what may have been implied was statist/big government and the like; as the two major parties are pretty much entrenched with the idea that they know what is best, being labelled either a suspect terrorist, libertine or welfare rat is irrelevant, since i am unworthy of conducting my business as I see fit: it is too bad the Tea Party may be subverted by Republicans: an ideologically perverted staus quo- which both the Democrats & the Republicans proffer- ought to be allowed to die a gruesome death.

March 23, 2010 6:35 PM
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