Let's say you're a political dude.
And let's say you kept losing elections.
Then one year you find an issue that catapults you to office, a fantastic salary, a lifetime pension and primo health insurance. Your issue? Ban all use of widgets!
So you get into office along with all your party-members who were all propelled into office on a public wave of desire to ban widgets. You give a big speech about how you've heard the people and you are committed to banning widgets. Widget use is DOOMED.
But then you start to worry. What if you do get rid of widgets? Let's say you managed to successfully eradicate the use of widgets? You'd be back to the same square you were at before widget banning became a valuable issue. You would no longer have leverage against your opponent.
You and all your party members realize this at the same time. But you have to look like you're doing SOMETHING. So you do one of the following: You create a bill that is so unpalitable to the opposing party that it's sure to get squashed of Vetoed. You create a committee to research widget banning and debate it forever. Or you create a bill and complain about how the opposition has watered it down and it doesn't go far enough in the banning of widgets...alas you have no other choice than to vote it down.
In short...you have a vested interest in keeping widget use legal, so you can keep it as an issue year after year. Though you speak of widget banning, you are the person least likely to ban widgets.
Let's turn now to the Democrats and the Iraq war and the Republicans and Abortion.
First, let's look at the Republicans. For four years Republicans had SUPREME control over all branches of government...or at least TWO years. During that time, very little headway was made on the banning of abortion. The very party that professed a desire to make it illegal altogether had two to four years to get the deed done, and they did nothing. In fact, they didn't even try.
Next, let's look at the Democrats. They rode in on an anti-war sentiment and seized control of both houses of congress. The Democrats won the power of the purse-strings. At any moment they could have told the President "Your game is done. No more funding. It's your fault if you try to wage a war without money." And yet they didn't. All threats of withholding funding without a time line were paper tigers, ignored by the administration.
Both cases are illustrations of our political figures keeping an issue alive as a means to try to retain an electorate.
In both cases the partisan defense is "we held such a slim lead. We need MORE [enter party here] to really get things done." But how many is enough? Until we see what a party will do with "enough" of a lead these divvied up issues will be dangled in front of us, constantly fresh, always delicious, and always just out of our reach.
The partisan game has begun to establish issues for us where the perceived stakes are hiked through the media's natural tendency toward the dramatic. Issues are decided from the top, down. Not from the people, up. This is a flaw in the current partisan atmosphere.