Failure Is the New Normal

Photo-Illustration by Wes Duvall for TIME

Not so long ago, the drama surrounding a looming deadline for congressional action was mostly for show. Everyone in the know understood that when confronted with a crisis, lawmakers could be expected to reach a last-minute, disaster-averting compromise--and then boast for the cameras about laying aside their differences in the national interest.

Not anymore. In today's hyperpartisan era, ideological purity trumps problem solving. The failure of the congressional supercommittee to devise a plan to chop the federal debt by $1.2 trillion over 10 years is just the latest and most obvious example.

In fact, inaction has come to define the Legislative...