News / USA

    Analysts: Is Dysfunction the New Normal in US Politics?

    House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listens as President Barack Obama speaks to media, Sept. 3, 2013.
    House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listens as President Barack Obama speaks to media, Sept. 3, 2013.
    As the U.S. political crisis over funding the federal government moves into a second week, some analysts are wondering whether paralyzing gridlock and dysfunction have become “the new normal” in American politics. 
     
    Frustration among the principals on both sides appears to be growing as the government shutdown drags on here in Washington. 
     
    Republican House Speaker John Boehner is hoping the shutdown will eventually bring President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies to the negotiating table over issues that include the president’s health care law and government spending in general.
     
    “This is not some damn game!  All I am asking for is let us sit down like the American people would expect us and talk to one another,” Boehner said recently. 
     
    But the Democrats, including President Obama, continue to resist, angry that a faction of conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives is willing to shut down the federal government in hopes of forcing concessions from the White House.
     
    “You do not negotiate by putting a gun to the other person’s head.  Or worse yet, by putting a gun to the American people’s head by threatening a shutdown,” Obama said.
     
    The health care law, also referred to as ‘Obamacare’, went into effect in 2010.  Republicans have tried and failed several times to either defund the law or block it.  It has also become a rallying cry for conservative Tea Party groups around the country, groups that Republican lawmakers now depend on to get elected.
     
    University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato says the ongoing fight over the president’s health care law can be traced back to the fact that it passed the Congress only with Democratic votes.
     
    “When you have that kind of partisan split about a massive new program like Obamacare, you really are guaranteeing continued partisan division.  That is not to justify what the Republicans are doing now.  It is simply to say it is an explanation for why this has developed the way it has,” Sabato said.
     
    Conservative Republicans say their willingness to shut down the government reflects the view of most of their constituents who are demanding a more aggressive stance against President Obama.
     
    Democratic political strategist Stan Greenberg notes a deep sense of Republican frustration and anger in a recent survey.
     
    “They think Barack Obama has succeeded in passing his agenda.  He has fooled people and passed his socialist agenda and they believe the problem in Washington is not gridlock.  They believe the problem in Washington is Republicans have not been strong enough in stopping him from succeeding in changing the country,” Greenburg  said.
     
    On the other side, Democrats appear united in support of the president and his health care law and regard the government shutdown as an attempt at political extortion.
     
    Some political analysts worry that this increasing trend of high stakes showdowns will become the “new normal” in U.S. politics.
     
    John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington says both parties are focused more on shoring up their political base of support than reaching out to the other side.
     
    “The country has realigned.  There are many strongly conservative districts and there are many strongly liberal districts.  So most of Congress can go home and listen to people who are on their side.  It is much more difficult than in the past, which was something more of a coalitional party system.  Today it is much more ideological,” Fortier said
     
    There is also concern that this new hyper-partisan era in American politics could have unforeseen effects on the national economy as well as state and local governments.
     
    Peter Brown with the Quinnipiac Polling Institute says there are a number of questions that could be answered by voters next year.
     
    “What does it do for the economy?  Does it make the economy better?  Does it make the economy worse?  Does it not have an effect on the economy?  Voters are very unlikely to vote based on the shutdown in 13 months, but they are likely to vote on their view of the economy.”
     
    The 2014 congressional midterm elections are little more than a year away and will offer voters their next opportunity to either demand a change in how the nation goes about the business of governing or to accept more of the same from its political leaders for the indefinite future.

    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Steven from: USA
    October 09, 2013 12:17 PM
    Why would the president of the United States try to purposely hurt the American people? Well, in 2013 this is done in order to score political points and force the opposition in to doing what you want them to do. A few days ago, an angry Park Service ranger publicly admitted that he and his fellow rangers have been ordered to “make life as difficult for people as we can” during this government shutdown. That Park Service ranger would never have received such an order unless it came from the very top.



    Apparently the Obama administration plans to cause as much pain as possible until Obama gets everything that he is demanding. In many cases, it is actually going to cost far more money to put up barricades and use guards to keep Americans from visiting open air memorials, driving on roads, and fishing in bodies of water than it would to put up a “closed” sign and simply go home. As you will see from the examples posted below, the Obama administration is being extremely spiteful and vindictive. And the level of hypocrisy that we are now witnessing is hard to fathom. For instance, the National Mall has been totally closed to the public, but the Obama administration is specifically reopening it for a massive pro-immigration rally that will benefit the Democrats politically. The abuse of power that is taking place is absolutely staggering, and the American people need to demand that those that are abusing it be held accountable when all of this is over.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora