When Politics Worked

October 7th, 2013
Our founding fathers created a system of government that respected opposing points of view and was designed to work even across differences. Throughout most of American history it has worked.  One time it did not was in 1861, when Abraham Lincoln, said the following: 

“What is our present condition? We have just carried an election on principles fairly stated to the people. Now we are told in advance, the government shall be broken up, unless we surrender to those we have beaten, before we take the offices. In this they are either attempting to play upon us, or they are in dead earnest. Either way, if we surrender, it is the end of us, and of the government. They will repeat the experiment upon us ad libitum." 

After the Civil War and for 150 years the system worked.  Today we are in danger of what Lincoln called “the end of us.”

Perhaps it is ideal to look into contemporary history for what was perhaps the last time that our system of government worked as it was intended.  That would be in the 1980’s.  It was in part the personalities of people like Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil and it was also a different time and a different context.  Chris Matthews is one of our keenest political observers. He sorts through it all in his new book Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked

My conversation with Chris Matthews: