The recent op-ed “What a moderate truly believes” by Gary Bennett was excellent, but it didn’t explain how we got into this partisan mess. I agree that more than half the populace falls into the moderate category, yet presidential elections consist mostly of name-calling and unrealistic proposals from the wings of both parties.
Ultimately, the rancorous atmosphere must be laid at the door of Congress. With a few exceptions, our congressional representatives have become much more partisan to ensure their re-election. In effect, they’re placing their own welfare and that of their party above that of the nation. Democrats may complain about the actions taken by the Trump administration on such matters as the environment, immigration, and tariffs — but they were complicit in granting the executive branch the authority to take such actions. The Constitution grants the authority over such matters to Congress, but recent Congresses have been unwilling to engage in the difficult work of negotiating the details of things like immigration policy, global warming and international trade. Instead, they either took no action on these matters or threw that job over the fence to the president. By such action or inaction, they avoided taking a position on any matter that might alienate some of their constituents, and thereby lose an election. It also allows them to go home early.
For at least the last decade or so, Congress has adopted a Tuesday-to-Thursday workweek, and even much of that time is spent out of the Capitol building dialing for dollars and schmoozing with lobbyists. Add in a five-week summer recess and many weeklong holiday breaks, and their actual work year amounts to little more than 120 days. No wonder they work so hard to get re-elected. Most of us would love to have a job like that.
Unfortunately, moderates often don’t vote in primary elections, either because they’re registered as independents or because they find both of their party’s candidates loathsome. The result is that the wing nuts determine who runs in the real election. At one time, we had leaders in Congress who were patriotic enough to place the welfare and security of the nation above retaining a majority in Congress. They used the power of their positions to control the wing nuts in their own party, and worked with the moderates on the other side of the aisle to craft legislation that addressed the most pressing and critical national issues of the day. Leadership like that is rare today.