The raging dysfunction of our federal government goes into overdrive this close to a presidential election, especially this close to this election.
Nothing you're currently seeing in Washington amounts to anything other than cynical allegiance to tactics and strategies for the looming contest.
The prince of this heightened cynicism is, of course, Donald Trump. He is both its product and chief practitioner.
People say he was blatantly racist to put on Twitter on Sunday that four liberal Democratic women in Congress of ethnic heritage should go back to where they came from and try to run those inept countries before trying to run ours.
But I didn't peer into his heart, where a racist will be revealed. And I can't be sure he wouldn't tell white people to go back where they came from if he thought there were benefits for him in the divisiveness.
I can, however, detect in plain sight his utterly virtue-devoid and irredeemable behavior.
Trump's tactical political purpose is to goad the Democratic mainstream into standing up for its left extreme. That way, he might more readily lump and lather all Democrats with the more polarizing positions of these women, thus fortifying his own re-election formula.
That's the same formula that applied in his first election. It's to invoke a 1950s-retro America against this new Democratic one with all these subgroups of ethnicity and variable values systems.
It's to tap people's fear, at best, or their racist hate, at worst.
Trump seems pleased to tap whichever produces a vote, especially in an upper midwest swing state.
The tactic worked well for him in 2016 in concert with Republican establishment incompetence in the primary and Democratic ineptitude in the general election, the latter of which is at risk of lining up for him nicely again.
That's unless Joe Biden can find his bearings or Elizabeth Warren can condense a compelling simple message from her exhaustive populist substance.
Trump also spouted big plans for a nationwide dragnet Sunday night to round up a couple of thousand undocumented immigrants and deport them. Federal officers rounded up maybe a half-dozen, which, for Trump's purpose, was all the better.
He could assure his base that he was trying to run the illegals out but that the liberals in all these sanctuary cities were protecting them.
Conversely, liberal Democrats have been blessed with this opportunity to protect undocumented persons and thus endear themselves further to the large Hispanic element of their own base.
It's akin to early rounds in a boxing match. Trump is crowing about a big knockout punch when his real purpose is throwing tactical body blows. Democrats see the advantage in counter-punching. Then they all return to their corners for a little hydration, attention to any minor cuts, and a refresher on tactics and strategy.
Meantime, the real and difficult immigration issue rages unsolved because solving it requires hard work on policy detail and the art of compromise. For now, and maybe permanently, both sides prefer the political benefit of the unadulterated mess.
If a president and Congress worked out an orderly and humane system for greater border control and efficient and just processing of asylum seekers, then Trump's campaign would suffer from having no illegals to pretend he's going to deport. Democrats would suffer from having no Trump threat of a roundup from which to protect some in their constituency.
If the parties compromised to address the immigrant problem, then presidential candidates might have to talk about the soaring deficit or failing infrastructure--to mention a couple of dire issues that fly in each other's faces.
The next window of opportunity for substantive policy can't possibly occur until early 2021. How widely it opens and how long it stays open will depend on what the voters say in November 2020.
If they re-elect both Trump and a Democratic House, the window will remain closed, locked hard, and stuck.
There is a theory the American people like things intentionally divided because that keeps either party from imposing an agenda.
But this era of American political dysfunction by design may have run too long, and amok.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 07/17/2019