It is not news that Congress is dysfunctional. The old joke about Congress needing adult supervision has become a reality. A good kindergarten teacher could do a better job running the place.
Why? The conventional wisdom on that point is true. It is the extreme partisanship that is strangling both legislative houses and that raises the same question: Why?
There are a lot of answers to that and some are accurate.
But the underlying problem is summed up in an old saying, “People get the kind government they deserve.”
We’ve have put up with this nonsense now for more than a decade. Just look at one thing: how the Senate deals with Presidential appointments. When a Republican President sends up a nominee, the Democrats savage it with a series of arguments that we can almost recite in our sleep: too partisan, too right wing. Lacks the proper temperament and so on. The majority, of course, argues that the President should be given some deference, some leeway in appointing people.
Time passes. The parties trade positions. A Democratic President sends up a nominee. The GOP goes purple with opposition: Too partisan. Too Left wing. Lacks the proper temperament. The same song, just the GOP verse. It is almost as if when the two parties change offices they also hand each other the “Official Opposition Game Plan” as they pass each other, and so it goes until we do it again.
This intransigence has become very bitter. I haven’t heard a Member of Congress call a colleague a Communist since the heyday of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, but it happened the other day.
Here’s the deal that some of us have forgotten. The survival of a viable democracy depends on honest compromise. If we each are to keep our rights to believe and advocate whatever we think is good for the country AND we are going solve our problems, we must compromise. That or wait until we get a national consensus on the matter. What 535 Congressmen can’t do 330,000,000 citizens will!
To actually get something done one has to sort out the most prevalent sane views and find a way to bring them together in order to take action. That is called compromise … the essential ingredient in a functioning democratic society.
That, in turn, requires having respect for those who disagree with you. Respect, trust, even cordial personal relations. Those people who disagree with you are not stupid. They are just loyal Americans who have different views than ours. If we believe otherwise, our democracy will not work.
Yet we are beginning to act like we would rather fight than function. Whether it is the Tea Party or Occupiers demanding that we do it their way – exactly their way, they each lead us into the dead end of inaction.
It is really not “My way or the highway.” It is “My way or no way.”
That just enrages me.
We’ve got an election coming up. And here’s where people decide what kind of government they “deserve.” We can elect more like those who want only to do it my way or we can listen with care to the moderates of both parties that have a hard time being heard, and see if they don’t offer a more pragmatic, effective way to resolve differences that will always arise in a democracy and effectively govern this still great country.