Some years ago, a friend in Easton would often ask during weighty dinner conversations,” Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone just got along?” We would roll our eyes and think to ourselves:
“Is he crazy or sadly naïve, or maybe both?” We would then change the subject and segue into a non-controversial subject like religion or the economy.
Now, I wonder if the Democrats and Republicans in Congress could somehow do the people’s business, ignoring re-election momentarily, and focus in a non-partisan manner on an urgently needed economic stimulus bill, or a jobs-producing infrastructure bill.
I wonder if readers are now rolling their eyes and speculating that I must be living in fantasyland.
Compromise for the sake of constituents? This writer must be certifiably nutty. Contention is the name of the game. Attack, attack, attack…do not give in, or up.
Recently I spoke with a friend and longtime Republican about the future of the Grand Old Party. I asked if he thought that taking, not stopping political actions beneficial to the public could become a norm. Could catering to the extreme wings of each party cease—at least periodically—and be replaced by policies that might boost the economy and enhance employment?
This friend neither laughed nor scoffed at my notion. He listened politely. He said some of his friends and he had discussed a new direction for the GOP. They understood the problem. A solution, however, remains elusive.
The crunch is this: members of Congress are obsessed with re-election. Fundraising is of paramount importance. You raise money by feeding your supporters the red meat of shrill opposition to the other party’s proposals. You denigrate those who disagree with you.
Reasonableness doesn’t sell if you’re always running for re-election. So, how does the Age of Combat yield to an Age of Compromise, as was true (though not always) in days of yore?
Change for the better happens only if voters scream “Enough!” Genuine power belongs to the people who hire and fire their elected representatives. Simple, but true.
Politicians respond to the fear of losing, to polls that show what people think, what they want and don’t want, what keeps them up at night, and what they see as reasonable expectations.
Nearly 80 million Americans sought change in leadership at the White House. They overcame false accusations about fraudulent voting practices. They overcame fear of Covid. They stood in long lines.
They were determined to exercise their democratic franchise.
Job security, affordable health care and accessible education are critically important to our fellow citizens, wherever they live, work, play and pray. Are members of Congress listening?
Do they care?
I strongly suggest that accord, rather than partisan anger, is a reasonable expectation of our neighbors, friends, family, first responders and small business owners. Patience is running thin. Covid-induced isolation has reduced tolerance for inaction.
All of us are feeling a bit irritable. While awaiting a vaccine and a return to normalcy, we’d like to see political solutions that give people hope and confidence,
Back to my friend’s once-ridiculed question and plea: could we all just get along? While human relations at best are fraught and fragile, particularly in the political arena, I believe that periodic bouts of comity might benefit citizens yearning for actions and policies that improve their lives.
It’s time to substitute agreement and compromise for rancor and discord. It’s time to exchange conciliation for combat.
Every once in awhile, a Kumbaya moment might be refreshing—and good for the nation’s fiscal and physical health.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.