The Monday Morning Teaser

Maybe the most depressing post in Weekly Sift history is “Countdown to Augustus“. It extrapolated from the then-current legal back-and-forth between the President and the Senate about recess appointments and the possibility of nullifying laws by refusing to confirm anyone to enforce them, to the more general problem of the erosion of the political norms that a republic depends on to function.

Oversimplifying a little for brevity: Partisan gridlock creates a dysfunctional republic. Leaders then can’t solve problems without cutting corners, but in the long run the corner-cutting increases the dysfunctionality. The bad example to avoid is Rome, where a century of gridlock between the self-serving patricians of the Senate and a series of populist reformers from Marius to Caesar eroded the norms of republican government to the point that Augustus was able to sweep it all away.

Like I just said, it was depressing. And it’s topical again, because of the recently announced immigration reform by executive order.

Obama was in the typical Roman-populist-leader situation of either watching a problem fester (and convincing the electorate that politics is useless), or doing something that is legal but against the usual norms. So he did something. And I’m happy he did rather than leave the problem festering, but I also see the longer-term erosion continuing.

So I’ve written another depressing post: “One-and-a-Half Cheers for Executive Action”. No doubt you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

It should appear shortly. Later this morning, the weekly summary will discuss the reaction to Obama’s reform, Bill Cosby, the Buffalo snow, and a variety of other things.

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