What’s “Political Dysfunction”?

I’m seeing complaints from a variety of sources in the press about political dysfunction in the United States. I wish I understood what they meant.

Since practically no one defines their terms these days, by inference I think they mean one or all of the following:

  • The things that I want to do aren’t being accomplished
  • People disagree
  • People within the same party disagree
  • The metrics I prefer, sometimes quite counter-intuitive and concocted to support a political point, prove that I’m right. Why do so many people think I’m wrong?
  • Complaining about political dysfunction helps the people or party that I prefer

I can tell you what I would mean by political dysfunction: when the most radical factions are setting the agenda and they are unable or unwilling to compromise. I don’t think that any of the points in the bullet points above are indicative of political dysfunction. I think they’re indicative of democracy.

The irony of the complaints about political dysfunction is that so many of those doing the complaining hold views quite divergent from those held by a majority of Americans and they would be even more upset if those majority views were to gain real ascendancy.

Dictatorship and oligarchy are orderly. Democracy is messy.

4 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    The radicals stopping ordinary functions from happening is certainly a sign of dysfunction. An even more basic sign is the refusal to accept election results. Complaining about them, claiming that something wasn’t fair is pretty normal but still refusing to accept the results after all of the claims have been debunked, the court cases lost, millions paid out with media admitting they lied, the accusers admitting they lied and no one could possibly believe their claims is just bizarre and a sign of dysfunction. I also think that the willingness to make extreme characterizations (and apparently believe them) about your opposition is a sign of dysfunction.


  • I also think that the willingness to make extreme characterizations (and apparently believe them) about your opposition is a sign of dysfunction.

    That seems to be fomented by social media. It’s pretty common there and I presume it’s spilling over into ordinary discourse.

    So, for example, I don’t believe that everyone to the left of Joe Manchin is a leftist by any reasonable definition but it’s not hard to find examples of such claims.

    IMO very few elected officials are consistent enough with sufficiently thought through views to characterize them as “left” or “right”. Mostly the only value they hold with any consistency is getting elected.

  • steve Link

    It’s well beyond social media. You had the claim that people on the left were not real Americans. Then you had the claims that Dems were pedophiles and also cannibals. FEMA camps, stealing elections. For quite a while you have had public figures on the right claiming that the left wants to destroy America. Now you have Trump publicly calling people on the left vermin in a speech that would have sounded better in the original German. The left is not immune with comments like deplorables but there has been a surge of near apocalyptic claims coming from the right. Politics can be nasty but it’s usually aimed at the politicians. This is being aimed at the voters.


  • Zachriel Link

    A sign of political dysfunction is bringing the country to the brink of default over the debt limit.

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