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When partisanship rules, America loses

By DOUG THOMPSON - A Capitol Hill Blue Opinion
August 7, 2013

partisanship2

Government or gridlock?

Rodney Alexander, a six-term Republican Congressman from Louisiana, announced Tuesday that he’s tired of the partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill and is getting the hell out.

Said Alexander in a statement released by his office:

Rather than producing tangible solutions to better this nation, partisan posturing has created a legislative standstill. Unfortunately, I do not foresee this environment to change anytime soon. I have decided not to seek reelection, so that another may put forth ideas on how to break through the gridlock and bring about positive change for our country.

Some may consider it a surprise that such a statement is coming from a member of a party so often blamed for the partisanship that has created such a political morass in Congress.

But those who blame Republicans solely for the mess on Capitol Hill are part of the very problem that Alexander is talking about.  So are those who lay the blame entirely on Democrats.

Partisanship is bi-partisan in Washington.  Both parties live under its banner and genuflect to whatever phony ideals either side claims to stand for.

While both claim to stand for what they claim is best for America what they really embrace is absolute power and complete control of a government that once functioned far more efficiently under moderation, cooperation and coalitions.

When I arrived in Washington in 1981 as a press secretary and legislative assistant to Republican Congressman Paul Findley from Illinois, our office in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hall was right across the hall from Democrat Melvin Price, whose district lay just south of Findley’s.  Findley and Price met often and worked on compromises to serve the nation, their districts and their state.

They worked together on passage of a compromise budget supported by both Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.

Yes, there were differences between Findley and Price and between the Republican and Democratic factions of Congress but, more often than not, we worked through those differences and managed to pass budgets, appropriations bills and other laws that benefited America.

The same spirit of cooperation worked in my later role chief of staff and then later as special assistant to the ranking Republican of the House Committee on Science and Technology — Rep. Manuel Lujan of New Mexico.

Rep. Bob Michel of Illinois served as the ranking Republican of the House in those days and he saw compromise and conciliation as the way to get things done.  He faced opposition from a militant group of new Congressmen led by the flamboyant Newt Gingrich of Georgia.

I left Capitol Hill in 1987 to take over the political programs division of the National Association of Realtors.  In 1994, Republicans captured control of the House and Gingrich became Speaker of the House and the mood in Congress changed as cooperation and coalitions collapsed under a “my way or the highway” approach.

That mood continued when Democrats later won back control as Nancy Pelosi served more as an agent of revenge in the Speaker’s office.  It continues today under the autocratic Republican leadership of the House under John Boehner and the equally gridlock-dominated style of Harry Reid in Democratic control of the Senate.

What’s best for the nation no longer matters in Washington.  Partisanship rules and America loses.

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Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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20 Responses to When partisanship rules, America loses

  1. Bill Cravener

    August 7, 2013 at 8:42 am

    What’s best for the nation no longer matters in Washington. Partisanship rules and America loses.

    Money, its influence upon our elected officials is what spawns the partisanship we see in today’s politics and that fact will never change.

  2. griff6r

    August 7, 2013 at 9:51 am

    So what law was passed during your tenure benefited America? I can think of no law in he past hundred years that benefited any one other than banks and/or corporations.

    I’ll take partisan gridlock over cooperative destruction any day.

    • Doug Thompson

      August 7, 2013 at 11:51 am

      There are some who think the budget passed in 1981 was a good ones. Reagan’s tax cuts, when finally realized in the mid 80s, helped spark an economic revival. I worked on two transportation bills that focused more on infrastructure needs and less on pork. Both became law.

      Maybe the difference is that I was there and actually worked within the system. :)

      • griff6r

        August 7, 2013 at 12:17 pm

        Please Doug, no names…I wish not to be taken seriously.

        • Doug Thompson

          August 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm

          Sorry about that. Didn’t have enough coffee in me yet. I edited it. :(

          • griff6r

            August 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm

            Just messin’ with ya…

      • Jon

        August 8, 2013 at 12:02 am

        “There are some who think the budget passed in 1981 was a good ones.”

        I am not one of those. I think it didn’t so much as spark an economic revival as reintroduced a ‘boom and bust’ mentality that the USA had thought it had outgrown in 1929.

        For a few the profits were enormous. For most, the costs were painful. That’s not a budget I’d be happy with even as a beneficiary.

        Jon

  3. Joe

    August 7, 2013 at 10:49 am

    False equivalence raises its ugly head again. It is de rigueur in the J-biz to blame both sides. This technique has some advantages. You don’t piss off your sources on either side as much and it allows you to be able to take the position of being “non-partisan”, and so avoid being picked on by one side or the other.
    Whatever journalistic “balance” gauze is pulled over the current state of our politics, one side really is crazy. There is no equivalent to Tea Party on the D-side. The Dems are not trying to re-litigate the civil war. The Dems are not actively arming themselves for the revolution. The Republican party is behaving in a way that damages their own interests as much as the rest of us.
    There is a level of mass-hysteria in the modern Republican party that I find both frightening and also, as a political junkie, mesmerizing. One of our great political parties has ceded definition of its political agenda to a collection of charismatic media “personalities” (Rush, Bill, etc), billionaires with agendas (the Kochs and Sheldon), various “industrial consortiums” (CoC, ALEC,
    NRA, etc), and of course, pledge-waving single-interest zealots (Grover). As much as the right whines about Soros, he simply is no where near in their league.
    The modern Republican party is behaving eerily like the Afrikaners did in S. Africa at the end of the Dutch imperial reign. Both sides are not equally crazy. It is OK to say so “:>}

    • Doug Thompson

      August 7, 2013 at 11:54 am

      So, let me see if I have this straight. The Democrats, somehow, are superior? One party has an idealistic advantage over another? Democrats put country first and politics second?

      Sorry, no sale here. This is not journalism talking Joe. It’s experience and a half-century of covering the system as a reporter or working inside it as an operative. I’m not a partisan because I know from experience that partisanship does not work. Those who think it does have nothing to show for such fantasies.

      • Jon

        August 7, 2013 at 11:56 pm

        Both sides being evil doesn’t make them both equally evil.

        Jaywalking and rape are both criminal, but they’re not equally criminal.

        There are shades of gray, and there are fundamental ethical choices (e.g., “I got mine, you can f*** off”) that shade it very much one way without absolving another.

        As an aside, what is up with the ‘Doug Thompson’ branch of CHB? It keeps reappearing and disappearing from the masthead menu boxes.

        Jon

        • Capitol Hill Blue

          August 8, 2013 at 1:19 am

          Disappearing? Oh my, what do you make of it? Could it be a grand conspiracy? Or wait, maybe it’s the that evil partisanship that you claim doesn’t exist? Or maybe it’s your browser? Or maybe it’s all in your head? Consider the possibilities.

          • Jon

            August 8, 2013 at 1:21 am

            It could be. It’s back now.

            The web is flaky. I accept that. So am I.

            J.

            • Jon

              August 8, 2013 at 1:23 am

              If it might help us debug the situation, I’ll take and send screenshots. I was surprised when it went away, and was honestly wondering if it were just me.

              J.

              • Jon

                August 8, 2013 at 1:47 am

                Or it could be space aliens.

                A friend of a guy my brother met at a party says he has ridden in a flying saucer.

                There have been a lot of funny lights over Roanoke lately, and that cheerleader from upstate swears up and down she’s a virgin still despite her rapidly growing belly…

                Yep. I’m going with space aliens here.

                It’s only logical.

                J.

                • griff6r

                  August 8, 2013 at 9:31 am

                  That’s a bit insensitive dontchathink? Undocumented extraterrestrials…

                  • Jon

                    August 8, 2013 at 4:02 pm

                    For fun, you might want to read Lee Correy’s ‘Shuttle Down’. It’s a bit dated now, but it really blew the lid off NASA’s easy argument “It’s a spaceship, not an aeroplane, so all those pesky regulations don’t apply”.

                    Extra-terrrestrial aliens indeed… ;-)

                    J.

                    PS – Those ‘pesky regulations’ are those that came about because someone caused something horrible by ignoring that detail. Yeah, it’s hard to get a license to fly an airplane. Do you really want people flying airplanes over your house who don’t have that training? J.

      • Joe

        August 8, 2013 at 11:44 am

        Doug, thanks for your comments.
        My point is not that both sides are not partisan. They are. That is their job.
        The point is that there is only one side actively sabotaging government operations. There is only one side monkey-wrenching the legislative process as we have never seen it done before. There is only one side refusing to govern and doing all they can to make sure government does not work.
        Painting both sides as equally culpable in the current mess is simply not credible. I know it feels good to blast “both sides” for gridlock, but it just is not supported by the facts on the ground.

        • Doug Thompson

          August 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm

          Jon, I have to disagree. I spent 23 years working in Washington, including six years on Capitol Hill and five years running what was then the country’s largest political action committee for the National Association of Realtors.

          The one constant was the equality of unethical and illegal behavior by both Republicans and Democrats. Both parties, in my opinion, are equally corrupt and neither party gives a rats ass about the nation they are supposed to serve. Both care only about their own agendas and power. Both are criminally negligent in use of public money and both put personal greed above public good. One is worse than the other? Not a chance. The system is corrupt and the system is served by different sides and different philosophies.

          I know this because I was part of the system. I’m sorry but you can never, ever, convince me that one party is less corrupt or criminal than the other. I was there and I know otherwise.

          • Jon

            August 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm

            That’s what’s great about this country (and this website). We can and do disagree.

            I have never met two exactly identical people. And if I were forced (at gunpoint?) to place them upon a scale there would not be two in one place. There’s my position.

            I am also probably being esoterically philosophical here. As Mr. Spock put it, “A difference that makes no difference is no difference”*, and that may be a good description of your position. I don’t know.

            Finally, that’s how to make the human race (not necessarily this country, not necessarily even this one planet) better – Disagree. Find out what. Find out why.

            This is how we learn.

            * Gene Roddenberry, “Star Trek”. J.

  4. Sandy Price

    August 7, 2013 at 11:10 am

    It is one thing for ech party to have an agreed upon agenda and work to support it and another when both parties work to destroy each other.

    I believe that the voters are totally responsible for the destruction of our constitution and would rather run our elections based on destroying the other side of the aisle. Putting in a black President simply lit the flames of war. Many Republicans are horrified at the racist agenda of the Conservative movement that came in after WW2.

    My generation can see this clearly and it has been a shock to me to realize how racist so many Republicans are at this time.

    The “no holds barred” from the GOP has opened my eyes to the truth of their neo conservative plans for America. I often wonder how many Republicans I worked for were really racists and managed to open the GOP to a false white Party.

    Bush 41 lost my membership in the GOP when I took the time to evaluage his platform. He taught me to know what the next candidate would do if and when elected.