Increasingly, it seems to me, the legislative branch is really not about legislating. It's about getting re-elected with often symbolic partisan gestures and passing laws to benefit those interests that will get you re-elected. Serious attempts to take collective bipartisan responsibility for state and federal debt, for example, seem rare. That's what commissions are for, apparently! But what's a legislature responsible for if not the budget it passes?I think this is pretty weak, on two counts. The first is the creeping Broderism...why "bipartisan" responsibility? During periods of divided government, sure it's fair to expect pols to find ways to work together because they have to -- but beyond that, there's no reason I can think of for anyone to specifically prefer a bipartisan solution to national problems.
And on deficit politics, I'm sorry, but what the hell is Sullivan talking about? The Democrats just did take responsibility for the long-term budget situation, by passing a massive bill that cut the deficit a fair amount in the short term and a lot in the long term. Yes, the Affordable Care Act. Liberal Democrats have also been trying, but don't have the votes, to improve the long-term revenue situation by increasing rates on rich folks. That's nothing new. The last time Democrats had unified control of Congress and the presidency, they passed a massive deficit-reduction package, and before that Democratic in Congress convinced a Republican president to support deficit reduction over the objections of conservative Republicans in Congress.
And where do all those deficits come from that Democrats keep attacking? Well, from massive tax cuts when Republicans had effective unified control in 1981, and then a combination of massive tax cuts and unfunded spending increases the next time the Republicans had unified control during this past decade.
In other words, what Sullivan calls serious attempts to take responsibility for debt are rare -- for Republicans, who (rhetoric aside) simply support very high budget deficits. Those attempts are not rare at all for Democrats, including Congressional Democrats. At least not over the last thirty plus years.
I really don't understand what's so difficult about this, and why deficit hawks -- especially someone like Sullivan, who is usually pretty good at cutting through phony rhetoric -- don't see it plainly. I mean, I'm not a deficit hawk, so I don't really have a dog in this fight, but it sure seems to me that deficit hawks should be a lot more supportive of the party that consistently supports their agenda. To be fair, Sullivan has never hesitated to call out Republicans over budget politics, and he's been (in my opinion) properly skeptical of the Tea Party crowd, demanding to see actual proposals before he believes that they would cut deficits. But where's the support for those who do have, and then actually enact, such plans?