Moving beyond partisanship

By Ryan Dykhouse

Twenty-seven percent of all Congressional communications involve taunting the other side, according to a team of Harvard University researchers. Out of every 10 communications, approximately three involve taunting the other side. Is it any surprise our country is stalled in legislative gridlock?

In the past several years, America has experienced some of the hardest economic times in living memory. Because of the financial collapse and policy decisions, our national debt has soared to levels that could pose further economic troubles. Instead of taking productive action toward solutions to our economic woes and national debt, Congress has been locked in gridlock, taunting each other and playing the political game. Even a special debt commission, given specific guidelines and powers to cut the budget deficit, was unable to come to constructive action.

I believe partisanship is at a level not seen since the Civil War. Bill Galston, a former advisor to President Clinton, agrees.

“The polarization between the parties reached its highest level in more than a century,” he said in a Dec. 30 article in U.S. News and World Report.

The adverse affect this polarization has had upon the political process and the overall health of the United States is incalculable. It may sound like a “kumbaya” moment, but I believe the time to end political partisan games and work together is now.

Many refer back to the statistic of 27 percent taunting or the highest levels of partisanship in a century and say, “It is impossible to work together. The political system is broken.”

I can recall a recent bill, however, that garnered plenty of bipartisan support: the Stop Online Piracy Act. Yet, this is not the kind of bipartisanship Americans want. Why is it Congress can work together on unpopular bills, but remains divided on popular legislative goals?

Tuesday night’s State of the Union address saw members of the legislative, judicial and executive branch come together, sit in a mostly bipartisan arrangement and listen to a speech encouraging bipartisan action.

President Barack Obama urged Congress to take up the example of the military and “focus on the mission at hand.”

“This nation is great because we get each other’s backs,” Obama said. “And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard.”

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels agreed in his response to Obama that what we need are bipartisan efforts in areas such as tax reform and domestic energy sustainability. Even though the language in each speech had elements of partisanship, each statesman had similar solutions to key issues facing our nation.

This election season, instead of voting for whoever can point fingers the best or whoever has the best attack ads, I suggest we focus on politicians who can work together to accomplish legislation that will enable real change and real progress as a nation.

Whether it is tax reform, energy independence or keeping our country safe, there are things that every American can agree with, left or right, Republican or Democrat. And the sooner we move beyond partisanship and work together, the sooner we will be able to progress toward a brighter future for every United States citizen.

Ryan Dykhouse is a political science major and can be reached at rdykhous@live.olivet.edu.

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