We have been swinging back and forth on this “alternate domination” pendulum for nearly two decades, and as a consequence our country is in trouble: Children are not safe, roads and bridges are crumbling, health care and Social Security systems are unsustainable, border and immigration management is a mess, budgets and deficits lack clear direction. The list of problems goes on and on, and most of them have persisted through both Democratic and Republican administrations and congresses.
Instead of systematically and sensibly addressing this myriad of challenges, our government is paralyzed by a hyper-partisan gridlock in which nothing constructive gets accomplished. Rather than taking action on practical and effective solutions that the majority of Americans would support, our politicians deliver soundbites, super political action committees and stagnation. This suits the “political industrial complex” just fine: Special interests and their lobbyists, pollsters, political ad agencies, consultants, partisan think tanks and even the media do quite well by this. But the interests of the public are ignored, and so public trust in government is hovering near 60-year lows.
We need to recognize that more of the same is not a solution. Swinging the pendulum back with a “blue wave” to replace the “red wave” will only sharpen polarization and make our problems worse. Instead, we need to change the system which allows this abuse by partisan parties and politicians. We need to reform the political process.
There are many worthy ideas in this political reform arena. The one with the most realistic chance for meaningful, near-term success is the Break the Gridlock initiative, introduced by the House Problem Solvers Caucus — a group of 24 Democratic and 24 Republican members who seek bipartisan solutions to the country’s problems. They propose to change the rules under which the House of Representatives operates, to make Congress work for the American people. These rules have existed since the time of Thomas Jefferson, but are changed every two years at the start of each session, and have been hijacked by the leadership of both parties to ensure that individual members have no input, committees play no real role and bipartisan compromise bills which a majority of the population would support aren’t even allowed to the floor for a debate.
The Break the Gridlock rule changes will reward transparency, encourage members to reach across the aisle, create debate on important issues and empower lawmakers to do their jobs — to find real solutions concerning our nation’s most significant problems.
I asked the Democratic and Republican candidates in the 1st District primaries the following questions, by email and in person:
- If elected, will you work with members from the other party to seek bipartisan compromise solutions to the country’s problems?
- Will you only vote for a speaker who will change the House rules so that bipartisan proposals can get to the floor for debate and a vote, as proposed in the Break the Gridlock initiative?
- Will you join the Problem Solvers Caucus?
Not a single one gave any meaningful response. Looking at their websites, they are clearly hoping to prolong the gridlock. Candidates of both parties offer their usual partisan menu of red meat to fire up the base and generate contributions. This is more of the same, and First District voters are sick of it.
It’s time to send this message to all our candidates:
“We don’t want polarizing proposals that will never be implemented. We want practical, realistic solutions that a majority of us can support. There are members in Congress who are working to find those solutions. If you want our vote, you need to join them.”