Jacob S. Hacker and Oona A. Hathaway: Our Unbalanced Democracy
Jacob S. Hacker is a professor of political science at Yale. Oona A. Hathaway is a professor of international law at Yale.
OUR nation isn’t facing just a debt crisis; it’s facing a democracy crisis. For weeks, the federal government has been hurtling toward two unsavory options: a crippling default brought on by Congressional gridlock, or — as key Democrats have advocated — a unilateral increase in the debt ceiling by an unchecked president. Even if the last-minute deal announced on Sunday night holds together, it’s become clear that the balance at the heart of the Constitution is under threat.
The debate has threatened to play out as a destructive but all too familiar two-step, revealing how dysfunctional the relationship between Congress and the president has become.
The two-step begins with a Congress that is hamstrung and incapable of effective action. The president then decides he has little alternative but to strike out on his own, regardless of what the Constitution says.
Congress, unable or unwilling to defend its role, resorts instead to carping at “his” program, “his” war or “his” economy — while denying any responsibility for the mess it helped create. The president, on the defensive, digs in further....