News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Letters

October 13, 2013

FLASHPOINT: It’s time for an intervention

BLOOMINGTON — The American public has lost patience with Washington. The question is, now what?

Congress is unable to do its job. It displays neither competence nor responsibility. It lurches — reeling from crisis to crisis, each one self-manufactured in an effort to postpone the reckoning from some earlier crisis. It shut the government down over a temporary budget. Now it’s threatening the financial credibility of the U.S. government and the security and safety of the American people. Three years of last-minute spending decisions have culminated in a television standoff with no actual negotiations.

Too many members of Congress reject the notion that accommodation and time-honored procedures allow them to fulfill their responsibilities to the American people. They use their legislative skill to engage in brinksmanship, rather than address the country’s fundamental problems. Economic growth? Creating jobs? Putting the federal budget on a sustainable path? Don’t look to Congress. They’re too busy coming up with the next short-term tactic to confront the other side. Every day they dither, they keep the government from addressing the nation’s real problems.

Even worse, they’ve managed to raise real questions in this country and abroad about whether our system of government can work. Are we saddled with a national legislature paralyzed by unending conflict? Are we capable of tackling our major problems? We are on the road to a government that cannot plan, a country shackled by perpetual uncertainty, and a loss of faith in our institutions both at home and abroad.

We do not have to continue down that road, but we do have to confront a core problem. The political center in Congress has weakened to the point of ineffectiveness, if not near-irrelevance.

That’s fine with some people in Washington, who are comfortable with gridlock and don’t think its consequences will be dire. Our government’s inability to deal with problems, they argue, is good — a government that’s able to act, they believe, creates more problems than it solves.

Likewise, some people acknowledge polarization as a problem, but blame it on an electorate that prefers a divided government, split between the parties. All I can say is that divided government in the past — think Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill — didn’t keep Congress from creatively addressing national challenges. Divided government is not easy, but it is not unusual, and it can work.

Politicians don’t deserve all the blame. Voters share responsibility: more people have to turn out to vote. The more people who vote, the better the chances to strengthen the political center — that is, moderates and pragmatists. That’s because low turnout brings out the most ideologically intense voters, who in turn reward the most polarizing candidates. A Congress more representative of the American people rests on expanding efforts to convince people to vote, and beating back the barriers to voting.

The second solution lies with members of Congress. Contemplating a government shutdown, a Kentucky congressman recently explained his stance by saying, “All that really matters is what my district wants.” This is not an uncommon view, but it’s a distressingly limited one. Our system depends on members who believe it’s also their responsibility to lead and inform voters, who are willing to weigh the national interest, as well as parochial concerns, and who have confidence in our system to resolve political differences.

In other words, we need members of Congress devoted to making the system work. We need men and women in office who understand that when the voters give us a divided government, they have no choice but to accept the distribution of power and work with it, regardless of what they wish were the case. We need legislators who realize that those on the other side feel just as passionately and deserve their respect, and who are committed to finding a solution to our problems.

We change laws in our democracy and solve our most difficult issues in this country not by bringing government to a halt, but by fighting out the issues before the voters in an election. At the end of the day, we have to move the country forward — and we need to elect members of Congress who are willing and able to do that.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Letters
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Raw: Plane Lands on New York Highway Raw: 16 Killed in Gaza Market Strike Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Harding Love Letters Now Open to Public Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit Raw: Guinea Rap Concert Stampede Kills 33+ 3 People Killed, Deputies Wounded in NC Shootout Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma
NDN Video
Heartwarming 'Batkid Begins' Documentary is Tear-Jerker What Drama? Miranda Kerr Poses Topless Woman's Dive Goes Terribly Wrong Plane crashes in San Diego Costco parking lot Justin Bieber Takes To Instagram To Diss Orlando Bloom You Won't Believe the Celeb Cameos in "Sharknado 2" Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Meet the Man Behind Dumb Starbucks Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob Golden Sisters on '50 Shades' trailer: 'Look At That Chest!' Staten Island Man's Emotional Dunk Over NYPD Car - @TheBuzzeronFOX
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity