Welcome to the end of America’s long experiment in republican self-rule, where a century of post-New Deal experimentation has determined that the ultimate model of government is anasocracy: rule by lame duck.
Anasocracy has the forms of representative democracy, but not the substance. Oh, the Little People get to run around thinking they participate in major elections to determine the future course of the nation, but the Ruling Class merely shrugs and laughs off even the most crystal-clear messages sent by voters. If an election doesn’t go their way, the anasocrats will question its very legitimacy, using language that would have had America’s founders reaching for their muskets: not enough people voted to get our attention, the people who did vote were too old and white, those who didn’t vote are more important than those who did, and we hold too many pesky elections anyway.
Worst of all, with the election out of the way, the defeated losers have a few months to run wild and do whatever they please, completely insulated from the ire of voters. Politicians of both parties know they will never be further away from the next election, and some of them are toast anyway. A period of time that should be a congressional coda, reserved for tidying up a few loose ends, becomes the most intense exercise of power in the entire congressional cycle.
With this in mind, the anasocrats are willfully derelict in their duties throughout the year, putting off the contentious business of charting the nation’s fiscal course until the absolute last possible moment. Once they realized they could get away with doing this, year after year, they developed a keen appreciation for the atmosphere of calendar-induced panic that comes with the snows of December. Freed of virtually all legal restrictions on their conduct, required to do absolutely nothing with the force of law, the anasocrats were free to rig the calendar so their power would be discharged in one incandescent burst, at a moment of zero accountability.
In those desperate cromnibus hours, responsibility becomes a sin. You’re not allowed to ask tough questions about what Congress is doing, object to elements of the trillion-dollar shopping spree it’s voting on, or stage a robust debate about major spending priorities. It is forbidden to ask why those who lost the previous election should have anything to say about next year’s …read more