Is Congress catastrophically broken, or is it doing exactly what it was designed to do?

Summary:What if this is a condition Adams and Jefferson coded for, and what if we're now running an error handling routine built into America's operating system?

Even so, the check and balance function is still in operation. A portion of the legislative branch -- a portion big enough to cause a ruckus -- has refused to authorize the continuing resolution until Obamacare is neutered. This is a clear case of one branch checking, balancing, and putting the brakes on another branch.

In that context, Congress is doing what it is supposed to do. If it strongly doesn't like something the executive branch is doing, it body-checks it and makes it stop. In this case, the check was rather heavy-handed, shutting down the whole government, but that's part of the design spec.

Congress is supposed to be able to shut things down if they don't like how they're going. That's the whole point of Congress, even more so than making laws. Congress is supposed to balance the power of the presidency and give the people the upper hand.

So in that context, Congress -- however ridiculous the situation seems -- is doing exactly what it was designed to do. It executed a controlled shutdown (as compared to, say, an armed rebellion with tanks in the streets).

But... it's also fair to say that the original design spec of the founding fathers has been hacked. They were around for the changing role of the vice president (and, in fact, helped cause that hack). So we could look at that simply as a bug fix put into place by Adams and Jefferson.

But political parties and gerrymandering, what of those? In the very earliest years, Adams warned against political parties -- and then embraced them. So our founding fathers, the original coders, knew that human nature was such that we would split into factions and while they didn't like the idea, they knew it was going to happen, and even went along when it became apparent there was no stopping our natural tendencies.

Political parties (even though the actual parties themselves have changed) have remained in place throughout our history. The Supreme Court has had hundreds of years to declare them unconstitutional, and -- to my eternal sadness -- never has. Political parties have been checked, weighed, and judged part of the balance of our nation.

What about gerrymandering? Surely that's not a fair practice and the Supreme Court, if it's designed to check and balance the other branches, would rule it unconstitutional. Actually, not so much. The core of gerrymandering, the ability for a state to redistrict, to redefine its districts based on population, was upheld even as recently as 1964, in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, a Supreme court case fought over districting practices in the state of Alabama.

So, heinous as it may seem, gerrymandering, based on the system of checks and balances we have, and based on the judgment of the Supreme Court, is a legitimate practice. That means that legislators elected from gerrymandered districts are legitimate representatives in the eyes of the American electoral system.

If parties are doing what they're supposed to be doing -- or at least what Adams and Jefferson recognized they'd do no matter what -- and gerrymandering can't be considered malware, and the current legislative branch has enough votes to shut things down because they're not getting their way -- that seems like what's supposed to happen.

Congress was supposed to be a pain in the ass. The legislative branch was supposed to be a thorn in the side of the executive branch. American politics were supposed to be messy. That's the whole point of a democracy.

So whether you agree with Obamacare or not, whether you agree with the radical wing of Congress that's forcing the shutdown or not, whether you even approve of the shutdown or not -- Congress is actually doing what it's supposed to be doing.

It is living up to its design spec.

The good news here, of course, is that the design spec works well enough that if you don't agree with what's going on, then in just about thirteen months, you can replace the entire House of Representatives.

Personally, I would like to throw them all out, Democrats and Republicans. All of them. Senators, Representatives, the President, Governors, state legislators, all of them.

The system is doing what it's supposed to be doing, but our actual, elected representatives are acting like children, are causing far more damage than they're preventing, and I'm sick of them all. But that's just my one vote.

There are a few hundred million more that will be tallied up on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. Make yours count.

Topics: Government : US, Government


In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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