Driving home from Iowa two weeks ago, I got tired of listening to the radio. I pulled out some old CDs to listen to music, and one was the sound-track to the movie “Evita,” which stars Madonna and tells the story of the rise to power in Argentina of Juan Perón, which was engineered in part by his wife, Eva. Perón was “elected” in a situation that was highly manipulated and backed by force. One song on that CD has this line: “That’s how we get the government we deserve.”
I think of that song as I read all of the complaints about Congress and the president in our current government “shutdown” and the arguing over Obamacare and raising the national debt. I hear all of those complaints, and I tend to agree with most of those complaints (what a mess we have in Washington, created by our elected leaders), but if we look a little deeper we have to admit that “we get the government we deserve.” Let me explain:
Our U.S. government is designed to create such stalemates. Our founders did not trust government, so they created a government with so many “checks and balances” that it is hard for any political party to take charge and rule (or simply govern). We have branches of government, a two-house Congress, and an active judiciary that inserts itself into the legislative processes. Our U.S. government was designed that way, so it should be no surprise that we have political divisions in Washington. In addition to our system of branches of government, we Americans also tend to elect different political parties to control the White House and Congress.
But it goes deeper. All of the traits in Washington that we decry are actually an outgrowth of the messed-up values in our whole culture.