Americans want progress, not gridlock, in Washington

bshands.jpg
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

. . . truth is the glue that holds government together. Compromise is the oil that makes governments go.

GERALD FORD, remarks to House Committee on the Judiciary, Nov. 15, 1973

Now that the mid-terms are over, we know that, starting in January, we will have a Democratic majority in the House and a Republican majority in the Senate.  This means that unless our political parties work together, absolutely nothing will get done.  Based on their recent record, gridlock is likely.

Americans seem just as polarized as Congress.  So would we rather see nothing done than to compromise?

A recent study by More in Common suggests that we want action.  It found that only 14% of the population on the left and right edges of the political spectrum have strong views.  The other 86% between those two extremes vary in the extent of their political involvement and are more flexible in their viewpoints but are disgusted by the polarized public discourse on politics.[1]  The study found that the voices of those at the extreme left and right were driving those in the middle into silent retreat.[2]  So the only voices we hear are the angry ones at the fringes and those account for only 14% of all Americans.  And that’s a good thing — America may not be as polarized as it appears.

Adding to the More in Common study, a Gallup poll found that only 22% of respondents favored Congress “sticking to principle” while 50% favored compromise with 27%  between those viewpoints.[3]  In fact, compromise has prevailed every time that question has been asked since 2010.[4]

And with record voter turnout for the 2018 midterms, more than just the polarized are turning out.  Nearly half of all eligible voters cast ballots, the most since 1914 for a mid-term election.[5]  So those who favor compromise are voting.

Congress has not received that memo.  It has shut down the federal government five times since 1990 when it was unable to agree on a budget.[6]  A party – or a President – grandstands on one issue, refusing to vote for a budget because of inaction on an issue they supported.[7]  They think that standing firm on an issue will get them re-elected.[8]

But that is not what voters are saying.  Not only do we want compromise, we want it on certain issues.  On gun control, for example, 68% of Americans said in March 2018 that they want stricter gun control.[9]  Specifically, 97% of Americans want background checks for all gun buyers.[10]  Yet Congress has failed to act.

And efforts to address immigration reform has failed over the last 32 years as well.[11]  According to a Gallup poll, three of four Americans believe that immigration is good for America.[12]  And 66% oppose separating children from parents at the border.[13]  On issues, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, 87% of Americans support DACA.[14]  Once again, Congress has failed to act.

Meanwhile, a showdown at the border with the migrant caravan is imminent.  Since the gun control poll in March 2018 cited above, there have been eight mass shootings, killing 53 and injuring 52.[15]

The current 115th Congress is no different than its predecessors.  If it continues the way it has started, it will “enact the fewest laws in at least 40 years.”[16]   And with a different political party holding a majority in each of the two houses of Congress starting in January, even less is likely to be accomplished.

If the delegates at the Constitutional Convention had taken the same attitude as our elected representatives have today, this country would never have been born.  Our Constitution has been called “a bundle of compromises.”[17]  Those compromises were needed to gain acceptance by each of the 13 states and included such issues as representation in Congress, how our presidents are elected, and slavery.[18]

We taxpayers pay the salaries of our elected representatives in Washington, D.C.  At salaries of $174,000 each for 433 representatives and 44 senators,[19] these folks cost us plenty.  Add to that the cost for the Speaker of the House $223,500, the majority and minority leaders in each house as well as the President pro tempore of the Senate at $193,400 each.[20] The total cost for Congress for one year then is . . . $84,188,500.  Let me say that again, nearly $84.2 million per year.

Does anyone want to spend $84.2 million on something that does so little?  I don’t.

Yet some welcome gridlock in Congress, as Bill Kort did in 2017 when he said, “Gridlock is good because when Congress is tied up in knots they can’t do anything to hurt us.”[21]  This means that Americans are afraid of what Congress might do.  It also says that Congress does not act in the best interests of the American people.  If that is the case, we need to vote for people who will.

So we need to let our elected representatives know what we want.  We need to tell them that we will not re-elect those who cause gridlock, but we will vote for those who reach across the aisle and work toward a solution for the American people.  The time for inaction is over.  America needs bipartisanship, not grandstanding or posturing.

And Congress needs to start listening.  To us and to each other.

[1] More in Common, Hidden Tribes:  A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape, October 2018, p. 11, https://hiddentribes.us/pdf/hidden_tribes_report.pdf.

[2] Id. at 128.

[3] Frank Newport, Bringing About More Compromise in Congress, Gallup, October 10, 2018, https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/243566/bringing-compromise-congress.aspx.

[4] Id.

[5] Abby Vesoulis, The 2018 Elections Saw Record Midterm Turnout, Time, October 13, 2018, http://time.com/5452258/midterm-elections-turnout/.

[6] David Davenport, Congress and the Lost Art of Compromise, Forbes, January 24, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2018/01/24/congress-and-the-lost-art-of-compromise/#13e94ca5d597.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] John Delaney, Congressman:  97% of Americans Want One Kind of Gun Control.  Here’s Why Congress Hasn’t Acted, Time, April 13, 2018, http://time.com/5233748/gun-control-background-checks-gerrymandering-policy/.

[10] Id.

[11] Rachel Weiner, How immigration reform failed, over and over, January 30, 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2013/01/30/how-immigration-reform-failed-over-and-over/?utm_term=.6cb45b5b3ce1.

[12] Niraj Chokshi, 75 Percent of Americans Say Immigration is Good for Country, Poll Finds, New York Times, June 23, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/23/us/immigration-polls-donald-trump.html.

[13] Id.

[14] Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto, Most Americans support DACA, but oppose border wall – CBS News Poll, January 18, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/most-americans-support-daca-but-oppose-border-wall-cbs-news-poll/.

[15] Mark Follman, Gavin Aronsen and Deana Pan, US Mass Shootings, 1982-2018:  Data From Mother Jones’ Investigation, November 8, 2018, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-mother-jones-full-data/.

[16] Danny Vinik, What Congress actually did in 2017, Politico, December 26, 2017, https://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/12/26/congresss-secret-achievements-000604.

[17] Martin Kelly, 5 Key Compromises of the Constitutional Convention, ThoughtCo., September 25, 2018, https://www.thoughtco.com/compromises-of-the-constitutional-convention-105428.

[18] Id.

[19] Ida A. Brudnick, Congressional Salaries and Allowances in Brief, Congressional Research Service, April 11, 2018, p. 1, https://www.senate.gov/CRSpubs/9c14ec69-c4e4-4bd8-8953-f73daa1640e4.pdf.

[20] Id.

[21] Bill Kort, Gridlock Is Good!, Seeking Alpha, May 18, 2017, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4074296-gridlock-good.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s