Our government, the political system that runs it and society in general has become a study in extremes.
So it’s little wonder that nothing gets done, that we get bogged down in minutiae and the bizarre outranks the important when it comes to capturing public attention.
So let’s get government and our lives back to basics.
Instead of electing those who advocate extreme positions, let’s look for leaders who know how to reach out for build coalitions and find common ground so we can move forward into the future.
The tea party faithful demand their agenda no matter what, even if it shuts government down, states like Wisconsin face disarray because of the extremist positions of Gov. Scott Walker and Congress remains deadlocked because its leaders cannot find a middle ground.
Americans want action, not endless debate from two sides that cannot learn to work together. Speaker of the House John Boehner apears to want to work with moderate Democrats to try and work out a budget compromise but he is undercut by his bombastic second-in-command, Eric Cantor, who listens only to the “our way or the highway” extremes of the tea party faithful.
Government gets things done when both sides learn to compromise. Coalitions move things forward. Lockstep extremists create deadlock, not progress and the nation suffers.
Ronald Reagan worked a tax cut through a reluctant Democratically-controlled Congress in 1981 because the GOP leadership in the House — led by a Capitol Hill pro named Robert Michel knew how to deal with the other side. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill — another House pro — was also willing to work with the other side to reach agreements that led to passage of a tax cut bill that started to cut into the spiraling economy, soaring inflation and sky-high interest rates.
This was before Newt Gingrich brought his out-of-control, take-no-prisoners approach to governing into the mix and coalition-building and compromise became dirty words.
Boehner, leader of the Republican Conference during Gingrich’s turbulent years as Speaker, knows that things can’t get done if both sides stick to extreme positions and refuse to work with each other. He remembers that the GOP, which won control of Congress in 1994, ran afoul of public opinion and approval a year later when the party’s extremes led to the last government shutdown. He knows Republicans will get the blame if it happens again and the party will pay when voters get a chance for payback in the 2012 elections.
What the tea party and the newly-elected GOP freshmen members of the House and Senate don’t understand is that the election results last year were not an endorsement of their extremist positions. It was a voter rejection of a gridlocked Congress. Voters would have elected a baboon on the ballot if one ran against an incumbent and many of those elected in 2010 could find themselves unemployed when they seek re-election.
Buyer’s remorse is already setting in. Approval of Republicans is dropping among those who voted for them in 2010. Firefights, cops and other first responders are abandoning the GOP in droves because of the campaign against public employee unions and the Republicans will need these folks next year.
Unless the newbies learn to work the system and build coalitions, nothing will get done and the voters who embraced them less than a year ago will be looking for another solutions to the problem next year.
It’s time to stop shouting and start working together.