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Senator Jeffords did us a favor
By Charles Bloomer
The recent defection of Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont from the Republican party to become an Independent/Democrat is not a disaster, despite all the media hyperventilation on the subject.
Sen. Jeffords' official alignment with the Democrats puts him with his ideological soulmates. Jeffords was the most liberal Republican in the Senate, notwithstanding the "moderate" label repeated so frequently in the mainstream press. In fact, Jeffords has voted with the Democrats more than any other Republican during his Senate tenure. This shift removes the need to pretend that Jeffords was a part of the Republican team, and it means that the Republicans no longer have to consider his opinion in the party's agenda. Gone is the hypocrisy associated with the little "R" after Jeffords' name.
Jeffords' change in party affiliation does cause a shift in the power distribution of the Senate. With Jeffords joining the Democrats in effect, if not in name, the Democrats become the majority party in the Senate. This power shift will cause problems for President Bush's conservative agenda and for the President's desire to appoint like-minded federal judges.
But the federal government structure was designed to be adversarial. The founding fathers never intended for legislating to be easy. Our constitution provides for three co-equal branches of government to ensure that proposed legislation was thoroughly debated and considered before signed into law. In addition, the legislative branch is further divided into two houses for the same reason.
When both houses of Congress and the White House are controlled by the same party, the motivation to fully debate and consider the actions of the federal government is lacking. The controlling party's agenda can be implemented without the airing of differences and dissent. The lack of debate leads to laws that are not necessarily in the best interest of the American people. With one party controlling all the levers of government, the partisanship necessary to thwart any ill-conceived agenda is missing. The party out of power is reduced to noisy sniping and whining about the loss of bi-partisanship.
Bi-partisanship is a recent construct for legislating that has been skewed from its original meaning. Bi-partisanship should mean cooperation and agreement for legislation that is truly in the interests of the country and within the limits of the constitution. In our era of "can't everyone just get along", the value of legislation has been measured by its bi-partisan support without regard for constitutionality or the good of the people. But bi-partisan agreement should not be the standard we set for the laws that are passed or for the role of the federal government. A bad law with bi-partisan support is still a bad law.
Placing control of the Senate into the Democrats' hands will likely lead to significant legislative gridlock. The ability of the federal government to implement either party's agenda is consequently reduced. This should be good news for those who believe that the government has become too big and cumbersome, too intrusive and centralized. Perhaps the increased partisanship will slow the growth of government.
Unfortunately, the partisan gridlock that is likely to occur now will also prevent any rollback of government or the reduction of expensive government programs. The federal government will remain too big, too expensive, and too powerful.
Sen. Jeffords, no matter what his reasons for changing party affiliation, in producing turmoil in the workings of government has actually placed congress in the condition planned by the founders of our republic. Jeffords has unwittingly created the environment that may slow the country's headlong rush to a socialist, centralized government. With any luck, he may have also killed off the idiocy we now call bi-partisanship.
Mr. Bloomer is a senior writer at Enter Stage Right. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2001 Charles Bloomer
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