Our country is at a crossroads. Today is a new day. I think it is an opportunity that might have been missed after the 2006 election of a Democratically controlled Congress or the 2008 election of Barrack Obama. It is an opportunity to find the common ground between our leaders and to move forward. I know, it sounds like 2006, and 2008. I just keep hoping that our leaders figure that out and make the appropriate adjustments as we all work together to move America forward.
This election cycle, perhaps more than ever before, revealed the ugly side of the electorate and the frustrations that each side brought to the table. As I traveled around last week, the tension in the air was palpable. Americans are worried, angered, and upset over the direction the nation is heading. They are not satisfied in the outcomes of the 2006 and 2008 elections. During those elections, people acted upon their concerns by voting for a new administration, a new Congress and a new direction.
As the country’s direction shifted, the minority was left out in the cold. For the first two years of the Obama Administration, the country certainly went in a new direction. Some say that it was a radical change, others embraced it. The republicans in congress were labeled the party of no by the administration and the leadership on the hill just continued to forge ahead. I have stated in the past and I think it is worth repeating here – if you have an absolute majority, why are you afraid of political debate? Why would you consistently deny the minority the opportunity to offer amendments to legislative proposals? Why would you not hold committee meetings for nearly a year? With a 77 seat lead in the House and a near filler buster proof majority in the Senate, why not let the minority be heard, let them offer amendments and then vote each and every one down?
Instead of governing from the center – where he campaigned – the President and Congress chose to govern from the left and enlisted the assistance and support of some of the most liberal members of congress to assist. That coalition resulted in David Obey (first elected in 1969) writing the $814 billion stimulus bill and directed the package toward transfer payments rather than job-producing public works. It led to Barney Frank, from the class of 1980, writing a financial reform bill with 243 new rule makings and the enshrinement of “too big to fail.” It led to Henry Waxman (class of ’74) and Ed Markey (class of ’76) writing the cap-and-tax bill that passed in the House but failed when Democrats revolted in the Senate. It resulted in George Miller (class of ’74) writing the federal takeover of the student loan industry, and Pete Stark (class of ’72) steering the health care debate as far left as he could and demanding a new payroll tax to pay for it.
With no real voice for nearly half of America, people’s frustrations lead to action and in this case, it led to the creation of the tea party movement. The tea party and the election of 2010 will go down in history as another in a series of shifts in American politics. But I fear it could also led to the establishment of an even more partisan electorate and a more polarized legislature. These types of movements tend to come from the far right or the far left and the middle is cut out. Moderates lost big this election but I am encouraged that some balance has been restored.
So where do we go from here?
For starters, the administration will now have to do pay more than lip service to those who have ideas that differ from it’s own. Secondly, we have to begin to understand that it took the nation some time to get where we are and it will take some time to get it fixed. Thirdly, we have to learn to work together – no matter what brought a member to Washington, we must, on behalf of the American people, start to re-engage in good old fashioned debate where everyone’s ideas are heard, weighed, evaluated and voted on.
America is nation with a rich – albeit short – history. We have never shied away from a good debate or a tough challenge and today I still have faith that if we hold to our principles and learn to respect our individual ideas, a collective solution will evolve that will be greater than any one person’s solution to our problems.
I guess that is the challenge of the second chance….finding the common ground.