Welcome to the thunderdome: Bipartisan foolishness


[Columns, letters or cartoons published are the work of the attributed author and do not necessarily represent the official views or opinions of “The Highland Echo.”]

So, with each passing year we invariably get more bad news about cooperation in Congress. The headlines all say grisly things about how this is the most divided Congress ever, that our Congressmen would rather get horribly disfigured rather than giving any ground or how this upcoming election is the most important election in the history of the United States.

The last one is particularly vexing. Since I’ve been old enough to figure out that presidents are voted in and not divinely chosen or whatever I thought when I was a little kid, I’ve lived through four elections, and they’ve all been the single most important thing to happen to this country ever.

I know that networks and news organizations talk like that to cynically increase ratings, but it’s kind of getting on my nerves.

And to add to the problem, the most important elections of all time are happening while the two parties haven’t really set an agenda at all. I voted for Barack Obama because I really didn’t like Mitt Romney, but I have no idea about any specific policy ideas that Obama is going to implement. We have a Republican House of Representatives, mostly because of gerrymandering, but I have no idea what they want, either. It seems like we’re in a holding pattern of needing a tragedy to happen for any substantive debate to happen, and I use “substantive” in the loosest way it can be used.

After the horrible tragedy in Connecticut, we started talking again about gun control, which wasn’t really an issue at all in the presidential election. After the Boston Marathon bombing, we are now talking about terrorism again, which wasn’t a focus point in the election, either. The Syrian government might have used chemical weapons, but during the election we mostly heard about Iran or Libya.

Instead of being proactive towards our problems, the political establishment is being extremely reactive, and that’s never a good thing, especially when trying to pass reasoned, measured laws in the wake of awful events. The PATRIOT Act was surreptitiously passed after 9/11, and that’s proven to be a detriment to civil liberties, but it was anathema to be against the measure in the wake of terrorism.

Is it possible that we could work on some things that both parties agree on? The election cycles have become so long that every politician is constantly going through some kind of judgment. That our representatives are so accountable is a good thing, but it also has prevented a lot of bipartisanship in government, as republicans in particular have to worry about primary challenges if they are seen as too capitulating.

Still, there has to be some things that we can work on of which both parties are in support. Every bill contains hundreds of minor measures that republicans and democrats can tolerate, regardless of what detail they contain. We need to simplify the tax code, even if we don’t agree whether or not we should raise or cut taxes. We ought to help start-up companies get financing, even if the government might lose some tax revenue now. We’ll gain it back later when the economy picks back up. It’s a nice bit of easy stimulus to do.

This is not to say that politicians should table the hard stuff. Heck, we elected them because we thought that they would be the best people to handle the hard stuff. But, at some point, there has to be something that we can work on without a huge hissy fight or massive public outcry.

Let’s bear down.

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