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Americans should embrace political gridlock

The+Founding+Fathers+drafted+the+Constitution+with+the+hopes+of+creating+a+strenuous+legislative+process.+While+this+system+often+leads+to+stagnation%2C+it+is+the+foundation+of+American+democracy.
The Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution with the hopes of creating a strenuous legislative process. While this system often leads to stagnation, it is the foundation of American democracy.

The Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution with the hopes of creating a strenuous legislative process. While this system often leads to stagnation, it is the foundation of American democracy.

U.S. Air Force/Public Domain

U.S. Air Force/Public Domain

The Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution with the hopes of creating a strenuous legislative process. While this system often leads to stagnation, it is the foundation of American democracy.

Alexander Derhacobian, Staff Writer

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Political gridlock has become as synonymous with American culture as Coca-Cola, fast food, and apple pie. While one of the most detested facets of America’s political climate, gridlock is a cornerstone of the United States’ history of liberty and democracy.

The origins of American gridlock date back to the founding of the nation. The Founding Fathers hoped to create a government where the consolidation of power in one body or one person was unfeasible. Under the rule of King George III, the tyrannical British monarchy was characterized by an oppressive unity of legislative, executive, and judicial authority. To prevent this centralization, the Founders created a system in which inefficiency and stagnation were inevitable.

At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the Founding Fathers worked diligently in the sweltering heat of the Philadelphian summer to draft a document that was a manifestation of progressive political thought. It created a bicameral legislature, restricted the powers of the chief executive, blueprinted a democracy, and most importantly, called for a complete separation of powers.

Although the cause of American gridlock, the separation of powers and the arduous legislative process are the sole guarantors of liberty in the United States. While the grandiose themes of the Bill of Rights are always considered the foundations of American freedoms, they contribute almost nothing to the nation’s liberty.

While considered by many as the focal point of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights was a mere afterthought. The creation of the Bill of Rights was not a central issue during the founding of the United States. Even some of the most ardent defenders of the Constitution, such as James Madison, labeled the Bill of Rights as “parchment barriers,” highlighting that its provisions did not guarantee freedom.

A Bill of Rights is not unique to the United States. The clauses of the document have been reiterated by countless countries across history, and time and time again, many of these states have failed to achieve the liberties of American democracy. The reason for their failure lies in the unique nature of America’s political system. 

During his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 5, 2011, the late Justice Antonin Scalia described how the Bill of Rights doesn’t guarantee individual liberties, but rather the structure of the U.S. government is the guarantor of these rights.

“Every banana republic in the world has a bill of rights. Every president-for-life has a bill of rights. The bill of rights of the [Soviet Union] was much better than ours. I mean it literally,” said Scalia. “They guaranteed freedom of … street demonstrations and protests, and anyone who is caught trying to suppress criticism of the government will be called to account. Whoa, that is wonderful stuff.”

Scalia’s description of the Soviet Union’s founding documents was far from the realities of society in the communist state. The primary difference between American democracy and any other form of governance is the fierce and sometimes irritating polarization between Democrats and Republicans. Many Americans regard this aggressive national debate between conservatism and liberalism as the culprit behind stagnation.

Knowing that power-hungry politicians would ultimately pursue self-interest over the general will, our Founding Fathers deliberately created this polarization to prevent such ambitions from being materialized into law.

In the United States, a nation that embraces diversity in all aspects of life, gridlock prevents the triumph of one majority above the rest. In a time of racial and religious homogeneity, Madison predicted that the future diversity of the United States would be preserved by the gridlock.

“Among the great variety of interests, parties, and sects…a coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place upon any other principles than those of justice and the general good,” said Madison.

Instead of criticizing political gridlock as an impediment to progress, Americans must recognize that the most effective laws are born through strife and disagreement. After all, if the people demand rapid decision making rather than gridlock, dictatorship might be a favorable alternative to democracy.

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The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.
Americans should embrace political gridlock