The Ripon Forum

Volume 51, No. 2

April 2017

In this edition

By on April 26, 2017

One hundred and seventeen years ago this month, Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris that included one of the most widely quoted lines in political history.

“It is not the critic who counts,” the Rough Rider famously declared, “not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”

If TR were around today, he would no doubt continue to view politics and public service as noble and heroic pursuits.  And yet he would also no doubt notice that the environment where these pursuits are carried out has dramatically changed.  Politics in America in 2017 no longer takes place in a noble arena.  Rather, it takes place in the political equivalent of a cage.

In the cage are two combatants — one Republican and one Democrat — who are more intent on destroying each other than perhaps at any other time in our nation’s history.  In the stands are the screaming onlookers – from concerned citizens to special interests – who not only cheer the fighters on,  but also egg them on through social media , advertising and other methods designed to increase the brutality and make the fight as bloody as possible.

And finally, taking it all in is the press corps – the all-knowing, all-seeing press corps — who cover every blow and look for every angle and want nothing more than for the fighting to continue.  For if the fighting ends, they know their ratings will fall and their jobs may come to an end, as well.   It is a brutal cycle that feeds on conflict.  And it is all part of cagematch politics. It is also something that Theodore Roosevelt would barely recognize if he were alive and active on the American political scene today.

In this edition of The Ripon Forum, we look not at the cause of cagematch politics – we’ll save that for a future edition.  Rather, we look at one of the byproducts, and that is dysfunction in our nation’s capital.  From a Congress that is so riven with politics that it has lost sight of its constitutional obligations to a federal bureaucracy that has become so inefficient and unaccountable that it is spinning out of control, this edition looks at how governance has broken down in Washington and how things can be turned things around.

Leading our coverage is former Congressman Mickey Edwards, who laments the failure of Congress to stand up to President in recent years, and puts forward a series of recommendations as to how it can begin doing just that.  Along similar lines, author and good government expert Philip K. Howard laments the poor performance of today’s federal workforce, and offers up a unique suggestion for the President to follow to start achieving results.

Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson pens an op-ed about the bill he has introduced to reform the way Congress passes a budget, while Illinois Representative Darin LaHood writes about his legislation to reform the way Congress organizes itself.  To those who believe that members of Congress could use more help, Kevin Kosar agrees with you and has written a piece arguing that, given the size and scope of the federal government, members need more staff, not less.

At a time when the President is saying he supports term limits for members of Congress, Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis and University of Kansas Professor Burdett Loomis square off in a debate about whether terms limits are needed, or whether they would do more harm than good.

In other op-eds, Doug Brake of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation makes the case for investing in rural broadband as part of an infrastructure bill that may be considered later this year, and Jacqueline Varas of the American Action Forum provides an update on the issue of trade.

And in our latest Ripon Profile, Pennsylvania Congressman Pat Meehan talks about the lessons he learned in his first job and his priorities in the House of Representatives this year.

As with every Ripon Forum, we hope you find this edition informative and interesting, and encourage you to contact us with any comments or questions you may have.

Lou Zickar
Editor of The Ripon Forum

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