Nothing can be accomplished in government today because of the polarization and dysfunction that has gripped our nation. It seems like those who seek to steer the ship of state would rather sink it than give up their desired course and heading. How did we get into this mess, and more importantly, how can we get out of it?
This year’s presidential election will be the most vicious that we have ever seen. The Supreme Court has opened the door wide to unlimited spending by corporations and billionaires, and political action committees (PAC’s). High priced television ads will assault logic, truth and the senses with their distorted messages hammered at us over and over ad nauseum.
We can no longer discuss issues, agendas, goals, directions, policies or principles. The political circus has become a mud wrestling match in a hog manure pit. Instead of discussing the issues and policies, campaigning now is all about the politics of personal destruction. Character assassination is the order of the day.
Instead of solving problems our main concern seems to be in blaming the other side. This country is in a mess, and there is more than enough blame to go around. But blaming will not fix the problem. It will only prolong the conflict, delay the solutions and deny any hope of returning to normalcy. There was an editorial cartoon after the earthquake that hit Washington in August of 2011. The cartoon said, “Some Republicans believe that Obama caused it while other Republicans believe that Obama simply failed to prevent it.”
When Tip O’Neil was Speaker of the House, he would tell everyone that, “We are all friends here after 5:00 pm and on weekends.” If only we could bring such civility back into our body politic. O’Neil has a simple rule throughout his whole political life. He would never finish work without taking someone out to dinner. And, in his thirty-four years in the House, including ten plus years as Speaker of the House, there were a lot of dinners.
There is no better means of getting to know someone than breaking bread together. Away from the office and its daily grind, O’Neill could get to know people, their families, their interests, their visions for the nation. He ate with friends and political foes, the entrenched leadership and the rookies trying to learn the ropes. He built relationships instead of just accumulating contacts. This is an art that is nearly forgotten.
If only we could return to the days of civil discourse based upon mutual respect and shared values. We can all disagree about the solutions, but we all can agree that there are problems to be solved, and fighting, blaming, attacking will not help.
Let us talk about the economy, entitlements, social safety nets, education, immigration, tax reform, our military, big government vs. small, federal vs. state powers, guns, medical care, regulation, and personal freedom. But let us have a civil discourse without the name calling and blame storming that has kept us mired in dysfunction.
Let us learn to listen to those with whom we disagree. None of us has all the answers. Let us learn anew the value of compromise. In a time of unyielding radicalism compromise is the only way to come together. No one will get everything that she or he wants. But together we can work on solutions for us all.
Are there any patriots left in politics who will put aside their personal agendas to work for the common good? Are there any brave women and men who will agree to put aside their mutual animosities to rebuild this great nation