Human nature is adversarial and confrontational. One does not need to be a history professor to conclude that what defines human nature is conflict. Its been there since the beginning, and its still around us to this day… and won’t be going away any time soon.
The greatest achievement of any civilization (or humanity for that matter) is to move beyond violent conflict. We can disagree, we can be adversarial, we can be confrontational, but we don’t try to physically harm each other.
From our court system to our government system, we have adopted a representative version of ‘conflict.’ We appoint or elect representative to do the ‘fighting’ for us, whether it is for a personal dispute with our neighbor, or whether it’s about an issue of national importance.
Therefore conflict, friction, antagonizing, or in political terms ‘partisanship,’ is perfectly normal and down right necessary for the preservation of our society: better to be happening in Congress, then in the streets of America. Of course, it goes without saying that such “fighting” must be fair and civil, within the confines of some pre-determined and acceptable rules of engagement (meaning, ‘legal fighting’).
The challenge is not to eliminate partisanship and conflict among politicians, but rather to ‘contain it’!
The US Constitution recognizes that Congress, with its two legislative chambers representing the People and the States, has more power than the other two branches: the unitary Executive (one President – execute the laws), and the Supreme Court (9-members – access the Constitutionality of laws). Congress can check both the Executive (approves appointment of department heads, override a presidential veto, and can impeach the President) and the Judicial branch (approves the appointment of Supreme Court judges, can impeach them, and can amend the constitution).
The US Constitution bestows to the Executive (the President) and the Judicial (Supreme Court) branches functions/roles that ‘transcend’ politics and ideology: the administration of laws by the Executive should not change with a Democratic or Republican President, and the constitutionality of Congressional laws must depend on a document that is neither liberal nor conservative.
Unfortunately, over the years, our elected politicians at Congress, most often in order to absolve themselves of the political risk of making certain decisions, they have delegated part of their legislative function (in the case of the Executive branch, by authorizing it to issue regulations which in the absence of laws have the force of law) or with their inaction invited Courts to step in fill the void. By doing so, they have all but guaranteed that Presidents and Judges will become ideological and political!
Once again, being ideological and political (partisan) is ok, but it must be contained within Congress. We need to advance Constitutional and procedural changes that remove the politics/ideology from the Executive and Judicial Branches. We must find ways to contain the politics in the US Congress.
How can we do that? Here are some suggestions:
1) Remove all ‘regulation making/issues’ from government agencies and departments of the Executive branch, and place them all such regulatory functions at independent commissions. Regulations are very much needed in our modern and complex society, but the government agencies/departments should only administer set regulations.
2) Require a 2/3rd majority (66/100) from the Senate, when consenting to Presidential nomination for any judicial appointment. This will most certainly necessitate ‘bipartisan’ cooperation in the Senate for the confirmation of Judges, which could lead to the appointment of less ideological (or at least not one-dimensional – only liberal or only conservative) Judges.
Removing political/ideological partisanship from the Executive and the Judicial branches will not be easy, but it is essential in restoring balance to our system of governance.