Tag Archives: Government

America’s Best Legislators

Americans seem obsessed with the idea… of ideologically pure lawmakers.  Officials elected to go to Washington and fight the very process of legislating for the sake of political purity that has never existed.  The 112th Congress has achieved a level of infamy not seen since the indolence of the 80th in 1947.  Legislating is a messy process built upon compromise (often compared to sausage making.)  Successful legislators find the balance between what Americans need and what they will tolerate.  Compare our current crop, Boehner, Cantor, Reid, Kyl– with our very best:

 

5.  Tip O’Neill– A Liberal Democrat able to survive the Reagan Revolution, O’Neill was a master deal-maker.  Reagan and O’Neill were at odds over every major issue of the day, but they were able to keep the government running throughout the 1980’s.  Reagan’s budgets included the social spending the Democrats demanded and O’Neill secured the defense increases Republicans pressed heavily for.  The two men forged an unlikely friendship amidst their budgetary battles.

Tipper and the Gipper

 

4.  James Madison– It is easy to forget Madison’s career as a legislator, being the Father of the Constitution and all.  Madison was the consummate pragmatist, willing to compromise when he believed the measure would build an enduring alliance.  His coalition building forced the original states to give up western claims allowing the territories to form.  He guided the Bill of Rights through the first Congress and built the foundation for the judiciary.  Madison distinguished himself despite life long ill-health and jealous rivals like Patrick Henry (who did all he could to deny Madison a seat in the first Congress.)

3.  Sam Rayburn– The picture of longevity and ethics, Rayburn served in the House from 1913-1961 and never once accepted government money for personal expenses.  Rayburn fought for programs he believed in, regardless of their party of origin.  He battled for the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt as well as the federal highway projects of Eisenhower.  Rayburn set a powerful example for a generation of lawmakers (see #2.)

Johnson, Truman, Garner, Rayburn enjoy a laugh

 

2. Lyndon B. Johnson– There has never been an arm-twister like LBJ.  Many historians consider him the most effective Majority Leader in the history of the Senate.  Central to his ability was intelligence; Johnson would learn as much as he could about the Senator(s) who needed persuading.  With information in hand, he proceeded with the “Johnson treatment” and few could resist.   LBJ brought these skills to the oval office, first passing the Kennedy agenda (including the Civil Rights Act of 1964) in just under 100 days.  Later, he pushed the Great Societythrough a reluctant Congress.

“I will have your support.”

 

1.  Henry Clay– Andrew Jackson’s name is given to the era, but Clay was the essential American political leader.  Clay transformed Speaker of the House from  a ceremonial to  a political position.  He used his influence to push his American System  that stabilized the country after the War of 1812.  Clay brokered  the Missouri Compromise which saved the Republic from collapse in 1820.  The Nullification Crisis of 1831 was averted through Clay’s efforts.  Clay again forestalled disunion in 1850 through another compromise.  Far from perpetuating slavery, Clay’s efforts allowed essential social movements and political debate to occur.  Had the Republic collapsed during his lifetime, the changes brought on by the Civil War might never have happened.

Essential American

 

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On Experimentation

Friends and rivals

Friends and rivals

The American experience has always been built on experimentation… Our very existence doubted by most of the world, the optimism of Thomas Jefferson became essential to the survival of our republican experiment.

 

As the election of 1796 loomed… the friendship between Jefferson and John Adams waned.  Jefferson reminded his friend of their experiment:

picture-2

“I am aware of the objection to this, that the office becoming more important may bring on serious discord in elections. In our country I think it will be long first; not within our day; and we may safely trust to the wisdom of our successors the remedies of the evil to arise in theirs. Both experiments however are now fairly committed, and the result will be seen. Never was a finer canvas presented to work on than our countrymen…. This I hope will be the age of experiments in government, and that their basis will be founded on principles of honesty, not of mere force….If ever the morals of a people could be made the basis of their own government, it is our case.”   Jefferson to Adams, February 28 1796

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Ramblings of an Antiquated Mind

Working hard at hardly working….

  • The embarrassing part of the shutdown is just how many Federal employees are “non-essential” 
  • The people are not going to miss the Assistant to the Undersecretary of Agriculture 
  • Both political parties look bad right now….
  • There are more employees at the Department of Agriculture than farmers in America…
  • Send the bureaucrats home, keep the parks and monuments open…
  • WW2 veterans should have unlimited access to the monument in their honor
  • Elections only have consequences when you win them with more than 55% of the vote
  • Kennedy warned “never negotiate from fear, but never fear to negotiate…”   Would he be welcomed in American politics today?
  • Americans are surprised when our government doesn’t work well- would we want it the other way? 
  • Two trains collide, 33 hurt-  two planes collide, Tenerife
  • The grass roots in education used to demand choice
  • The education establishment has hijacked grass roots populism
  • School choice and charter schools work
Shameful

Shameful

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America’s Best Legislators

Americans seem obsessed with the idea… of ideologically pure lawmakers.  Officials elected to go to Washington and fight the very process of legislating for the sake of political purity that has never existed.  The 112th Congress has achieved a level of infamy not seen since the indolence of the 80th in 1947.  Legislating is a messy process built upon compromise (often compared to sausage making.)  Successful legislators find the balance between what Americans need and what they will tolerate.  Compare our current crop, Boehner, Cantor, Reid, Kyl– with our very best:

5.  Tip O’Neill– A Liberal Democrat able to survive the Reagan Revolution, O’Neill was a master deal-maker.  Reagan and O’Neill were at odds over every major issue of the day, but they were able to keep the government running throughout the 1980’s.  Reagan’s budgets included the social spending the Democrats demanded and O’Neill secured the defense increases Republicans pressed heavily for.  The two men forged an unlikely friendship amidst their budgetary battles.

Tipper and the Gipper

4.  James Madison– It is easy to forget Madison’s career as a legislator, being the Father of the Constitution and all.  Madison was the consummate pragmatist, willing to compromise when he believed the measure would build an enduring alliance.  His coalition building forced the original states to give up western claims allowing the territories to form.  He guided the Bill of Rights through the first Congress and built the foundation for the judiciary.  Madison distinguished himself despite life long ill-health and jealous rivals like Patrick Henry (who did all he could to deny Madison a seat in the first Congress.)

3.  Sam Rayburn– The picture of longevity and ethics, Rayburn served in the House from 1913-1961 and never once accepted government money for personal expenses.  Rayburn fought for programs he believed in, regardless of their party of origin.  He battled for the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt as well as the federal highway projects of Eisenhower.  Rayburn set a powerful example for a generation of lawmakers (see #2.)

Johnson, Truman, Garner, Rayburn enjoy a laugh

2. Lyndon B. Johnson– There has never been an arm-twister like LBJ.  Many historians consider him the most effective Majority Leader in the history of the Senate.  Central to his ability was intelligence; Johnson would learn as much as he could about the Senator(s) who needed persuading.  With information in hand, he proceeded with the “Johnson treatment” and few could resist.   LBJ brought these skills to the oval office, first passing the Kennedy agenda (including the Civil Rights Act of 1964) in just under 100 days.  Later, he pushed the Great Societythrough a reluctant Congress.

“I will have your support.”

1.  Henry Clay– Andrew Jackson’s name is given to the era, but Clay was the essential American political leader.  Clay transformed Speaker of the House from  a ceremonial to  a political position.  He used his influence to push his American System  that stabilized the country after the War of 1812.  Clay brokered  the Missouri Compromise which saved the Republic from collapse in 1820.  The Nullification Crisis of 1831 was averted through Clay’s efforts.  Clay again forestalled disunion in 1850 through another compromise.  Far from perpetuating slavery, Clay’s efforts allowed essential social movements and political debate to occur.  Had the Republic collapsed during his lifetime, the changes brought on by the Civil War might never have happened.

Essential American

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RIP James Q. Wilson

James Q. Wilson made political science cool… and he leaves a huge hole in the ubiquitous discipline.  Wilson was respected by Presidents from both parties and his ideas changed the way American academics taught civics.    When Wilson talked, academics, politicians, and students listened. 

"The governments of the US were not designed to be efficient or powerful, but to be tolerable and malleable."

Common wisdom demanded one narrative of American government… growth following the New Deal.  Wilson challenged the conventional wisdom and created much-needed debate on the legacy of the New Deal,  “Once politics was about only a few things; today, it is about nearly everything,  no program is any longer ‘new’ — it is seen, rather, as an extension, a modification, or an enlargement of something the government is already doing.”   

Wilson explained how our government worked… and compared it adeptly to how it should work.  His insights were invaluable to the study of civics in this country.  We can only hope there are political scientists out there ready to carry on….  Wilson’s basic text-book is a great start…

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America’s Best Legislators

Americans seem obsessed with the idea… of ideologically pure lawmakers.  Officials elected to go to Washington and fight the very process of legislating for the sake of political purity that has never existed.  The 112th Congress has achieved a level of infamy not seen since the indolence of the 80th in 1947.  Legislating is a messy process built upon compromise (often compared to sausage making.)  Successful legislators find the balance between what Americans need and what they will tolerate.  Compare our current crop, Boehner, Cantor, Reid, Kyl– with our very best:

 

5.  Tip O’Neill– A Liberal Democrat able to survive the Reagan Revolution, O’Neill was a master deal-maker.  Reagan and O’Neill were at odds over every major issue of the day, but they were able to keep the government running throughout the 1980’s.  Reagan’s budgets included the social spending the Democrats demanded and O’Neill secured the defense increases Republicans pressed heavily for.  The two men forged an unlikely friendship amidst their budgetary battles.

Tipper and the Gipper

 

4.  James Madison– It is easy to forget Madison’s career as a legislator, being the Father of the Constitution and all.  Madison was the consummate pragmatist, willing to compromise when he believed the measure would build an enduring alliance.  His coalition building forced the original states to give up western claims allowing the territories to form.  He guided the Bill of Rights through the first Congress and built the foundation for the judiciary.  Madison distinguished himself despite life long ill-health and jealous rivals like Patrick Henry (who did all he could to deny Madison a seat in the first Congress.)

3.  Sam Rayburn– The picture of longevity and ethics, Rayburn served in the House from 1913-1961 and never once accepted government money for personal expenses.  Rayburn fought for programs he believed in, regardless of their party of origin.  He battled for the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt as well as the federal highway projects of Eisenhower.  Rayburn set a powerful example for a generation of lawmakers (see #2.)

Johnson, Truman, Garner, Rayburn enjoy a laugh

 

2. Lyndon B. Johnson– There has never been an arm-twister like LBJ.  Many historians consider him the most effective Majority Leader in the history of the Senate.  Central to his ability was intelligence; Johnson would learn as much as he could about the Senator(s) who needed persuading.  With information in hand, he proceeded with the “Johnson treatment” and few could resist.   LBJ brought these skills to the oval office, first passing the Kennedy agenda (including the Civil Rights Act of 1964) in just under 100 days.  Later, he pushed the Great Societythrough a reluctant Congress.

"I will have your support."

 

1.  Henry Clay– Andrew Jackson’s name is given to the era, but Clay was the essential American political leader.  Clay transformed Speaker of the House from  a ceremonial to  a political position.  He used his influence to push his American System  that stabilized the country after the War of 1812.  Clay brokered  the Missouri Compromise which saved the Republic from collapse in 1820.  The Nullification Crisis of 1831 was averted through Clay’s efforts.  Clay again forestalled disunion in 1850 through another compromise.  Far from perpetuating slavery, Clay’s efforts allowed essential social movements and political debate to occur.  Had the Republic collapsed during his lifetime, the changes brought on by the Civil War might never have happened.

Essential American

 

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