The current spectacle that is posing as governance in Washington should make us all rethink how we get out of the morass that has enveloped our country. While partisans on both sides will point to the behavior of some to justify why their particular solutions to problems are not tried, the reality is we have come to rely upon the wrong things to change the way our country is governed and how policy is set.
There was a time in the not too distant past when people who believed in an idea that they wanted to be part of our civic life, understood they needed to convince others of the efficacy of their idea. It required patience and understanding and also compromise and a willingness to recognize progress comes in small steps. However, for a while, we could achieve a common understanding of certain ideas, but the way to implement them became the focus of the debate. We understood that for an idea to take root it required nurturing and a willingness to modify our course in pursuing the result. Once we had a common understanding and agreement on the goal, we could argue with vigor about the best way to get it done.
An example of this was the New Deal which redefined the role of government. At first, it was very controversial, but as the Depression lingered, the idea of the federal government providing assistance to the downtrodden became an accepted concept in most communities. Then the debate began for years as to the size and scope of that assistance and what needed to be done to help people out of that situation and how much would be asked of all citizens to allocate resources to this type of activity. This debate continues to this day.
Unfortunately, in recent years, instead of taking our ideas to the marketplace, we have decided that to prevail, what we really needed to do was to win an election. As the two parties became more polarized, it was deemed easier to be successful electorally that it was to convince all citizens of the need. Instead of having elections to decide how to solve problems commonly agreed to, we now have elections which produce one party or the other imposing their vision by using the coercive power of the government. There is little effort to persuade with anything but apocalyptic predictions of what the other side will do. Thus, each election has the potential to unravel any common idea that has held our communities together for years.
It seems to me until we demand of our own leaders that they take their ideas to the marketplace, we will get more of the same. So, Democrats, demand more of your fellow Democrats; Republicans, do the same. If not, we will find that we have no common weal around which we can continue to base our democracy and that would be a tragedy.