Restoring Bipartisanship in Washington
Who would do a better job - Obama or Romney?
Now that we know that the choice in November elections is between Romney/Ryan and Obama/Biden, which of these choices offers a better prospect of the Presidency and the Congress resolving national problems on bipartisan basis, and unlock the heavy polarization of the two political parties at the moment? The positions started hardening soon after President Obama took office in January 2009. One of the first announcements of the Senate Minority leader Republican Mitch McConnell was that the party’s number one priority is to ensure that Obama becomes a one-term President. In effect, there was the not-so-subtle implication that the Republicans would not allow any legislation to be passed that would add to the President’s popularity with the American people. And with that statement, and the rise of the Tea Party, the whole process of resolving issues that affect you and me on bipartisan basis, went into deep hibernation. The question before us now whether this phase is short or long term.
Nation in crisis
With our nation facing a crisis on several fronts, and as we keep getting closer by the day to the “fiscal cliff” that could toss us into a deep economic crisis, the gridlock in Washington continues. Public polls show the present Congress is immensely unpopular and both the Houses of Congress are being blamed for the gridlock. Thus we the voters need to vote only those representatives to the Congress that are committed to working on bipartisanship basis. But that may remain a pipe dream, and we can only hope that after the November elections, we would have in the White House a team that gets things done through compromise.
The Republicans, particularly under the pressure of Tea Party Congressman and Senators, have become increasingly rigid and unyielding on important national issues and are being singled out as the biggest stumbling block to settling issues through compromise. President Obama’s proposals on many issues may not be acceptable to some of us, but opposing them purely so as to deny him any credit (even if some of his proposals were made in the past by the Republicans themselves!), brings out the obvious motives of his opponents. President Obama cannot escape blame on many of the problems that plague our nation today, but he has made several attempts to reach out to his opponents and arrive at a compromise, but has the opposition really been forthcoming? In the process, he has even lost the sympathy of some of his democratic and liberal base. But he has shown his willingness to compromise. In the last four years, our gaffe-prone, affable Vice President Joe Biden has been working, perhaps without much fanfare, with all members of the Senate to arrive at a compromise on important issues. He may have had limited success through no fault of his, but he certainly has shown his willingness.
What do we know of the Romney/Ryan team? I personally viewed Romney as some one who is willing to work on bipartisanship basis and compromise on important issues in the interest of the nation. But these are perhaps precisely the reasons that the Conservatives amongst the Republicans did not warm up to him to begin with! Now that he has chosen Paul Ryan as his running mate, his message is clear – he has yielded to the Conservative base, and with that to the core beliefs of the conservatives and the Tea Party. Gone overboard is the acknowledgement that no one person or one party knows what is best for the nation. There is little if any inclination for a meaningful dialogue, and no leeway for any compromise. The sound bites that one hears are it’s going to be my-way-or-the –highway.
The need for political dialogue
On several occasions in the past, the leaders of both the political parties in our nation have been able to resolve major critical issues through meaningful dialogue and have worked hard to arrive at a compromise. Each side has to give up something for the greater good. The irony of the present situation is that both parties are fully aware of the gravity of the situation, and the urgent need to find solutions. They both know where we need to be, and each party has proposed a different path. They just lack the political goodwill to find a common ground – the Republicans with their single-minded obsession to defeat President Obama, and the Democrats doing a rather poor job of spelling out what has been done the last four years and what could have been achieved.
If we were to judge which of the two candidates would work on resolving the nation’s problems, if necessary by compromising on his party’s values and resolving major issues on bipartisan basis, then I would opt for the Obama/Biden team. Should the Romney/Ryan team be installed in the White House, then I fear that bipartisanship would need to bunker down for a long-term hibernation.