The Capitol dome is one of the great symbols of freedom, democracy, and representative government in the United States and it is a world-wide icon of government by the people. It is altogether fitting and proper (to borrow a phrase from Lincoln), to restore this great symbol and preserve it in all its glory for future generations. This is a massive restoration process requiring a colossal system of scaffolding twenty-five stories high which is composed of 75,000 parts and 52 miles of steel pipes. The work will take two years and cost $60 million. The restoration is expected to last for 100 years.
But what are we doing to restore what goes on under this magnificent dome? There are no quick fixes or dollar amounts we can attach to this larger problem. There are no sandblasters, welders, painters, engineers, and architects who can fix a dysfunctional Congress trapped in hyper-partisanship and blinding ideology. What has happened to Congress when threats of impeachment and government shutdown follow every major disagreement with the President? This is not governance; it is warfare, with the U.S. Constitution and the American people, not partisan officeholders, as the ultimate victims.
Our current crisis of governance did not occur overnight any more than the Capitol dome began to rust overnight. But neglect of cast iron leads to rust, and neglect of what Congress is supposed to be and do under the Constitution leads to another kind of rot that is so much harder to fix and far more dangerous to the wellbeing of an entire nation.