Despite the win by Democrats in Alabama’s Senate Race by the slimmest of margins, (Jones/49.92 percent to Moore’s/48.38 percent), the country remains bitterly divided.
A recent poll by Pew Research (Oct. 5), shows that “The divisions between Republicans and Democrats on fundamental political values – on government, race, immigration, national security, environmental protection and other areas – reached record levels during Barack Obama’s presidency. In Donald Trump’s first year as president, these gaps have grown even larger.”
While pundits, politicians and others continue to talk in terms of Us vs. Them, there is an opportunity to change the conversation. Here are 5 points for politicians to consider:
1 – Republicans and Democrats need to get past the constant focus on winning vs. losing. After an election, good governance is about putting the interests of all citizens above differences. From an ethical standpoint that means that politicians must cultivate an open-minded process on what the country needs and how best to achieve those needs regardless of what political badge it wears.
2 – Stop the rancorous rhetoric. At times, Democrats and Republicans act more like the warring Sharks and the Jets than responsible elected leaders. The ethical value of respect is fundamental to society in general, but for political leadership, it is essential. And, for the love of God, STOP all tweeting. You weren’t elected to serve as a social media “friend”; you were elected to solve the nation’s most urgent problems. Time spent tweeting can be better spent working with colleagues.
3 – Toss out the rubber stamp. Just because your party controls both houses of Congress and the White House doesn’t mean that you were elected to blindly vote the party line on all issues. With the lives and welfare of the country in the balance, the majority governing party has a duty to consider all options on legislation. Sen. John McCain has been called a maverick not because he wants to buck his own party, but because principles matter more than party politics.
4 – Republicans have a duty to lead on finding compromise. With control of both Houses, Republicans have a responsibility to reach out to their Democratic colleagues, not just in words but deeds. A colleague is a partner, co-worker, and promising ally. Democrats have an equal responsibility to find areas of understanding. Instead of keeping score as to whose legislation is up or down, current members need to wake up to the reality that this is not about gamesmanship, but statesmanship, and that their first duty is not to the “team” but to the country.
5 – Lead by example. Members of Congress need to look to a growing number of colleagues who are finding common ground: The Problem-Solvers Caucus; a group of some 35 Republicans and Democrats who meet to find a way to work together.
In a statement:
“Problem Solvers are principled, pragmatic and committed to reaching across the aisle to help address issues in Congress. We believe we were elected to find solutions reached through collaboration, not division, mutual respect, not partisan bickering, and we will work in service to the people we represent in districts across the United States to move our country forward.”
“I believe that as vigorously as we debate our policy differences,” caucus member and Freshman Congressman Salud Carbajal told me, “we should also commit to upholding the principles of civility and respect to encourage productive discourse. On issues of national security and to provide for the needs of the American people there is no doubt in my mind that there is more that unites us than divides us.
“To this end, I reach across the aisle whenever possible, to advance policy that serves my constituents and moves our country forward.
“I have found that working to reach common ground means real solutions for our country. Particularly through my work with the Problem Solvers’ Caucus. This summer, we saw fierce partisan debate over the Affordable Care Act and rising healthcare costs. Even as contentious debate raged on, our group sat down and agreed to work on coming up with real solutions to make healthcare better and more affordable for all Americans. We agreed upon a framework to guarantee Cost-Reduction Subsidies that will create greater certainty in the insurance market to drive down costs. This consensus framework was reflected in the Murray-Alexander CRS legislation which was later introduced in the Senate with broad bipartisan support.
“This is just one example of why working in a bipartisan way is so important. I believe our legislation is made stronger with input from both parties. That is why over 50% of the legislation that I have introduced or co-sponsored has been bipartisan.
“The first step toward achieving bipartisanship is committing and working towards creating a climate of civility and mutual respect. I am proud to have signed a civility pledge with most of our freshman class of this 115 Congress.”
Here are links to five statements put forth by The Problem Solvers to their party’s leadership:
If you agree with the mission of The Problem Solvers, contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives and tell them you that you not only support the work The Problem Solvers are doing but encourage them to join their efforts.