Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 3, 2012

Stumptalk: Adversarial politics equals Congressional gridlock

By Jim Sykes
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — No one believes that Congressional gridlock is beneficial to our Republic. Then why do we continue to have gridlock in Washington and many state legislatures? Could it be related to the harshness of our rhetoric and name-calling? What if we were somehow able to remove racist, sexist, homophobic and similar rhetoric from our discussions?

A quick look on the Internet will show that the federal Congress has so many caucuses representing special interests groups that they are doomed to failure by the simple fact that they are no longer trying to accomplish the actions that are in the best interest of the majority of the American citizens. Now, after an election, their primary task is getting reelected. All of these elected representatives are supposed to be working for the benefit of all Americans.

This partisanship started long before anyone reading this was born. I suggest that it started when political parties started emphasizing that their primary goal was to win elections. The problem with having that as the primary goal is that, when the politicians are elected to office, they try to pass legislation that will primarily benefit their particular partisan group instead of what is best for the majority of citizens. After election, if they would act like they represent the best interests of all of the citizens, it might show that they deserved to be elected. Instead, they become very adversarial and act like they must win for their party or other special interest group instead of doing what is best for the country. In sports and lawsuits, opponents are expected to act that way. When that type of action is used in the legislatures, it will never produce the desired results. Every elected official, whether democrat, republican or independent, must be willing to modify his/her position on issues if doing so does not violate his/her principles. Compromise is give and take by each side on an issue, not surrender by one side to the demands of the other.

Some of us can remember when candidates argued when they were campaigning but, after the election, the winner seemed to be trying to do what he/she felt was in the best interests of all of his/her constituents. I have to wonder what our current students are being taught about our form of government and what they expect of their elected officials. It must not be what we learned about our government when I was in school.

When gridlock happens, the people are the ones who suffer. Unless we get more involved and start vetting our political candidates, we cannot expect the situation to improve. That means that we are the ones who are ultimately responsible for the gridlock. If our elected officials cannot work together for the benefit of the majority of Americans, then we must replace them. We need to recognize the difference between a politician and a statesman and begin electing statesmen.

The main purpose of the party system was to provide the public with an understanding of the candidate’s general principles and beliefs. What if we forced our representatives to negotiate important issues in public on TV or otherwise? Then we could decide for ourselves which party, or individual, is refusing to compromise.

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Stumptalk is published weekly in the Crossville Chronicle. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. To contact Stumptalk, email coordinator Phil Billington at stumptalk@charter.net.