- - Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Voters are telling Washington something that’s hard for incumbents to accept: the old ways of governing don’t work anymore.

Turmoil has engulfed politics and the discontent isn’t passing. The establishment has been buffeted regularly in recent years. A restive electorate is once again demanding change.

The question is whether the change will be radical or procedural. That’s the crossroads that lawmakers and politicians are facing.

On the presidential front, voters clearly want a new face. Donald Trump is the Republicans’ favorite anti-politician. Democrats will accept Hillary Clinton, but a large number of them would rather not.

In Congress, the tea partiers and the main streamers have broken with each other. But can a new face alone bring them together or is the schism deeper than that?

Part of the problem is that the instant satisfaction provided by the Internet trains citizens to expect quick answers from a system that was designed to take a lot of time.

Only consensus items – meaning well-honed compromises constructed to fix serious problems – were ever meant to become the law of the land. Our founding fathers wanted the other things to fail or languish.

Voters want immediate answers and would prefer that the outcomes match their personal preferences. Such policies-on-demand would be a lovely thing.
But they’re not possible.

Lawmaking isn’t the same as Netflix. You can’t call up your favorite thing whenever you want and focus on it to the exclusion of everything else.

Which gets to the heart of the choice now being considered in the nation’s capital.
Do the sincere conservatives who belong to the Freedom Caucus want a bigger megaphone and an expanded opportunity to have their opinions aired and voted on or do they insist on winning all the time?

If they want a less centralized and more democratic kind of leadership in the House of Representatives, the current chaos will pass. A patient and understanding leader like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would be perfect to take the Speakership.

In other words, if the dissidents in the Republican Conference are willing to accept procedural changes, the impasse in the House will end.

But if principle refuses to yield to compromise among the large, conservative faction – if the Freedom Caucus stubbornly demands that it prevail and not just be heard – then not even a bridge-builder like Rep. Ryan will be able to succeed.
Politics as we know it would have to change. The time could finally come when all of us will have to suspend our disbelief and accept that a minor revolution is about to overtake the status quo.

Get ready for some amazing prospects. Donald Trump actually can become president. Hillary Clinton will lose again, not just the presidency but the Democratic nomination too. A new era will hit the House of Representatives, hard.
Who knows what might be possible there? One thing that won’t happen — at least until after the next election — is that a tea partier will win the Speakership and take control the Republican majority.

The votes aren’t there to allow that to happen. And control would be too strong a word to describe the power that a tea party Speaker would have.

But other possibilities abound. A Democrat can become Speaker. Or a Republican will ascend to the Speakership with the support of most GOPers and a faction of Democrats.

But why stop there? This might be one of those moments when new ideas as well as new faces emerge. The closed club of Washington might be on the verge of throwing open its doors to new thinking AND new people.

The government might shut down in December and the U.S. could fall into default. Another wave election isn’t out of the question in 2016.

These are heady and dangerous times. The last time like it might go back to President Richard Nixon’s resignation and the “reform” class of Democrats that populated the Congress afterward.

Most of those young rebels are retired, lobbyists or both these days. Which shows what happens to revolutions. But we might be at the start of the same cycle again. Get ready.

Jeffrey H. Birnbaum is a Washington Times columnist, a Fox News contributor and president of BGR Public Relations.

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