This doesn’t seem likely to change as a result of the mid-term elections. Congress will remain evenly divided. Which means that for the next two years at least, the stalemate between Capitol Hill and the White House will probably continue.
As a nation, we face a lot of challenges, yet we’re not addressing them. Comprehensive immigration reform may be “very difficult to achieve,” in the words of one leading Republican senator, but it’s still vitally important. Housing reform, tax reform, trade liberalization, reforming the International Monetary Fund — all need congressional action. So do the nation’s armed services and the Defense Department, which face serious cuts because of sequestration. Climate change isn’t even on the congressional agenda.
Which is why we have the curious sight of local governments trying to deal with a global issue by passing zoning laws and ordinances, in the belief that at least they can do a little bit to address climate change’s impact. Indeed, congressional inaction is spurring states to cancel planned summer bridge- and road-repair projects, and big-city mayors to fill the national power vacuum by going ahead with their own minimum-wage measures, tax increases, and other initiatives designed to legislate where Congress won’t.
Recently, I’ve been listening to what non-incumbent candidates for Congress are saying. Their partisan labels and policy specifics might differ, but not their basic message: that they’re the ones to fix congressional dysfunction, partisanship and polarization, and to get Capitol Hill moving again. Many of them won’t get the chance to put their ideas into action, since incumbents have overwhelming advantages at election time. Even those who do get elected will find, as they always do, that there’s a yawning gap between what seems possible when you’re campaigning and what’s actually possible once you’re elected.