Is the Only Way to Improve the Gridlock in Congress to Clean House?

On February 15, Democrat Indiana Senator Evan Bayh announced he wasn’t seeking a third term. He cited strident partisanship and the constant gridlock in congress as reasons. It’s true, months do go by and nothing substantial gets accomplished. In an interview on The View he said, “It shouldn’t take a constitutional crisis or attack on the country to get Democrats and Republicans listening to one another and working together.” He added, “Politics has almost become tribal.”

This phrasing of tribalism has been used more frequently instead of partisanship. It means something much more severe. One definition of tribalism is, “the act of assigning assumptive qualities to anyone that one perceives to be not of one’s own group and the rationalizing of divine or benevolent motives behind abhorrent actions undertaken by one’s own group.”

More practical problem solving is necessary. Listening and compromising is necessary for action. There seems to be far too little dialog today. It’s difficult to name people in either the Democrat or Republican party who are willing to compromise. Without compromise, there can be no substantive action and this is hurting Americans.

Perhaps the route of the problem is the pervasive media eager to cover disputes or lobbyists or even special interest groups. What most agree upon is that there is a problem.

It seems Washington, DC changes even the most idealistic people after a few years. We need some enthusiastic new blood of both parties to facilitate real discussion compromise and action. I interviewed Sean Duffy on my radio show, Critical Thinking in the Real World, today. He is running against Rep. David Obey who has served in Congress since 1970. It will be a tough battle as Obey has a great deal of money, clout and connections. Yet, Duffy is willing to take on this fight because he believes Obey is out of touch with his constituents. He also is frustrated by his actions and said, “David Obey believes we can borrow, spend, and print our way out of this crisis. I think he and his friends in Washington are creating a greater crisis. The consequences of government spending for bailouts, budget increases, bloated entitlements and ‘stimulus’ spending will be staggering and unsustainable debt that will act as a dead weight around the neck of our economy.”

Career politicians are no good for the country. Term limits are a great idea. If Members didn’t have to worry about constant re-election cycles, they could spend more time on the people’s business rather than on securing their own jobs.

When I worked for Rep. Steve Gunderson from 1994 to 1996 as my first job out of college, I organized the group meetings called the Tuesday Lunch Bunch of moderates Republicans who then met with moderate Democrats. My responsibilities included delivering them pizza, soda, dessert as well as keeping track of attendance. That was one of Former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s best initiatives. Imagine having 30 to 40 Members of Congress talking together for an hour each week. As Senator Bayh said, that simply isn’t happening now. There was a lot of compromise then even with Democrat President Bill Clinton and a Republican majority in Congress. It is possible to have that today.

I have to believe that both Republicans and Democrats today really do want to make a positive difference. That is at least when they are first elected and before they get over-taken by Washington, DC and all that corrupts. Their ideas might be different, but they have to somewhere in there believe in the common goal–to serve.

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2 thoughts on “Is the Only Way to Improve the Gridlock in Congress to Clean House?

  1. Not to be too cynical but even the quote you put in your blog from Duffy is patently partisan and (I would argue) false. I have met David Obey and I know a little about his stances. He has always been against large deficits and while he is not afraid to spend during a recession, in general he is fairly fiscally conservative compared with his social views. In the early 90s (when I knew him) he was criticized by fellow democrats for worrying about the deficit. Just a cursory look at Obey’s congressional web page shows how he touts this. Politics these days seem to be about trying to paste a label on your opponent whether it is true or not and the repeat it over and over as if it were the truth. Mr. Duffy will say that line at every speech and in every press release to fire up conservatives and independents. The sad thing is, it might work.

    Your comment about tribalism is dead on. To quote Barack Obama’s Inauguration Speech, We cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve.” Unfortunately, many seem to be against anything he says just on principle and there is more loyalty to tribe (party) than country. I’m not saying to disagree with him is unpatriotic, I’m saying that shutting down dialog and promoting party over people is unpatriotic.

  2. The warning in US politics action ‘faction’ goes back to the Federalist Papers era. It is nothing new in American politics to have partisanship, or to warn against it. Today, the ones most likely to want an end to partisanship merely want the superior debating points of their opponents to go away.

    In addition to age-old warning against faction, we have also seen the era of the great compromises in American politics. Like the Missouri Compromise.

    The only thing these ‘compromises’ accomplished was to extend the unnatural lifespan of slavery. And we got the Civil War anyway.

    If I want to keep all my limbs and someone wants to chop off all four of them, it is foolish beyond common sense to compromise with him on cutting off just two.

    Imagine if all criminal trials ended in compromise. “OK, you get to keep half of what you stole.” Well, as it is, too many end with the equivalent– a plea bargain. There comes a time when compromise in court becomes injustice.

    Likewise there comes a time when compromise in politics leads to national bankruptcy, or allowing a threat to the national interests to remain instead of being eliminated. Some topics deserve to be debated and decided in a fully partisan manner. The issues we face today are not controversies over the ‘state flower.’
    They concern the security and economic health of the entire country.

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