Legislators at the federal and state levels of government are taking verbal beatings around this country almost like never before. Much of the criticism is well deserved, even they will admit.
Whether the criticism is warranted or not, I have always believed that if everybody could vote for all members of the U.S. Congress or a state legislature all at once, every single one of them would be sent packing.
Of course, that is not how our system works. We vote for members of Congress and state legislatures based on districts where we live. Those of us in Southwest Georgia don’t get a vote on the rep or senator from, say, Chickamauga in north Georgia, no matter how poor a job he or she is perceived to be doing
“I’m happy with my representative (or senator),” is a familiar refrain of voters. “It’s the other ones that I can’t take. Mine is doing an excellent job.” If I have heard that once in more than two decades of covering politicians, I’ve heard it a hundred times. I suspect voters in middle or north Georgia would love to boot a few south Georgians out of office, if only they had a chance, and vice versa.
At this writing, I heard a congressman say on television, “Washington is dysfunctional and broken.” At least some of them realize how pathetic a job they are all doing. It must be really bad when they are willing to admit the errors of their ways.
The root of this Malfunction Junction called Capitol Hill is the complete lack of compromise that exists in the nation’s capital. That art has been the right medicine many times over the years in getting things done for the good of the country. It now seems gone.
To my knowledge there has not been one Democrat or one Republican of late willing to break with their party on the important issues of the day. To do so would require political courage — and an inclination to risk their re-election. I cannot imagine that Congress would end this calendar year without a compromise on the most recent big flap, the controversial payroll tax cut, but the truth is that they are just as likely to hang the average family with an extra $1,000 in taxes in the year ahead as they are to give another tax break to the wealthiest Americans.
In my working past, I witnessed a legislative body that actually worked for the common good by employing the art of compromise. The folks I observed would not dare do anything to harm middle income taxpayers — or school children or sick folk. But that was before the current state of partisan political gridlock became the norm.
Some political leader of one stripe or another is going to have to lead an effort to rediscover the art of compromise. It must be accomplished at every level of our system — from every local zoning board meeting room, city and county hall and state capitol to the various venues of power in Washington, D.C.
Mac Gordon is a retired reporter who lives near Blakely and writes an occasional opinion column for The Albany Herald.