The debt-ceiling crisis has prompted predictable media laments about how partisan and dysfunct ional our political system has become. But if the process leading to the current deal was a "spectacle" and a "three-ring circus," the show's impresarios are none other than James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. Our messy political system is working exactly the way our Founders intended it to.
To the extent House members were the most intransigent during the process—a matter of opinion, in any case—they were meant to be. The House of Representatives is the "popular branch," as described in The Federalist Papers, and was intended to "have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people." Many people, especially those who elected tea party candidates last November, passionately believe that the federal government has gone off the rails. They think that Washington has been spending like a dru nken sailor since President Obama took office, and that this profligacy must end.
By contrast, the Framers conceived the Senate as a body of graybeards (or, at the very least, as modestly mature individuals who have reached the age of 30). It was meant to represent the interests of the states and to serve as a check on "the impulse of sudden and violent passions," or the danger of "factious leaders" offering "intemperate and pernicious resolutions" that might in time characterize the lower house. If the Senate has been less willing than the House to call an immediate halt to federal borrowing and to seek a more gradual return to fiscal responsibility, this too is exactly what it is supposed to do.
The result was a compromise, as it has nearly always been throughout our history.