Our government is broken because our Constitution is designed poorly
Delicious contrarian commentary from Noah Berlatsky.
The point here for Yglesias is presumably that the Republicans should stop being obstructionist assholes. The Democrats won the presidency and picked up seats in the House and Senate. So Republicans should get out of the way and let Obama pass the policies he ran on, which in this case would mean letting the Bush tax cuts expire on those making over $250,000, and then moving on to other business.
Again, the implication here is that the Republicans are willfully perverse idiots intent on destroying our democracy. And far be it for me to disagree with that assessment. But I think Ygelsias' tweet actually gets at a more fundamental issue: our government doesn't work very well or very democratically. In fact, it’s designed not to work very well or very democratically. It's fine to blame Republicans for the fiscal cliff quagmire, but I think we need to blame the Founding Fathers too.
As Yglesias says, in most countries, people go to the polls and vote for a party and a platform. They elect a legislature and an executive at the same time. Then the party that’s elected puts its policies in place just as promised. If they work, it can look forward to reelection; if not, they're booted and someone else gets to try.
In the US, things don't function that way. The Founding Fathers were afraid of government concentration of power, so they divided power between different branches. The goal was to make it difficult for government to do much, and in that goal they were fairly successful. An elected president in many cases cannot enact his policies. Instead, he has to negotiate with those who lost the election.
The result is often paralysis and a lack of accountability. Elected officials can't actually enact their policies, and so it's difficult to hold them responsible for their time in office. It also encourages everyone to be extremely vague about what they're actually going to do, in the hope they can blame anything bad on the other guy. Mitt Romney had a hell of a time pinning the lousy economy on Obama. He also, and not unrelatedly, resolutely refused to say what he would do himself. So it's not much of a surprise that, after a campaign where many economic issues were obfuscated, no one can agree on economic policies going forward (except maybe that taxes on the very wealthiest are going to have to go up—which is the right thing to do but is hardly a cure for all of our economic ills).