In this insane political year, with GOP picking Trump and Dems falling in love with a socialist, this Atlantic article helps explain things, including the Democrats' recent precedent-breaking sit-in.
The gist of it is that all the things we hate about politics - earmarks, glad-handing spineless politicians, favor-trading - turns out to have a function: it allows government to function.
It's an eye-opening read, a "pro-establishment" piece during this era when "establishment" is a dirty word, and a key that unlocks everything when combined with a recent book by Yuval Levin titled, "The Fractured Republic: Renewing America's Social Contract in the Age of Individualism".
It's all about atomization. A race to extreme individualism conjoined to a race towards extreme centralization. They go in tandem, surprisingly: "two sides of the same coin that reinforce each other and make the other possible" according to Levin. The Dem lawmakers involved in the sit-in are simply taking the next step in the logical progression towards greater individualism (thwarting and obstructing the rules of the House) and greater centralization (their desire to enact federal gun laws).
The Yuval Levin book argues that what we've failed to diagnose the real problem, which is a surfeit of nostalgia:
Levin argues that our anxiety is rooted in a failure of diagnosis. Our politics is drenched in nostalgia, with Democrats always living in 1965 and Republicans in 1981, and is therefore blind to the profound transformations of the last half century. America’s midcentury order was dominated by large, interconnected institutions: big government, big business, big labor, big media, big universities, mass culture. But in every arena of our national life—or at least every arena except government, for now—we have witnessed the centrifugal forces of diffusion, diversity, individualism, and decentralization pulling these large institutions apart. These forces have liberated many Americans from oppressive social constraints but also estranged many from families, communities, work, and faith. They have set loose a profusion of options in every part of life but also unraveled the social order and economic security of an earlier era. They have loosened the reins of cultural conformity but also sharpened our differences and weakened the roots of mutual trust.
Building on our strengths while healing our wounds, Levin argues, would require a politics better adapted to the society we have become—a politics rooted in neither an ethic of centralized power nor a spirit of radical individualism but a regard for the potential of a modernized subsidiarity and civil society.