News / USA

Fixing Washington’s Political Gridlock

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine smiles on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 after delivering her farewell speech to the Senate.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine smiles on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 after delivering her farewell speech to the Senate.
Frustration over political polarization and gridlock in Washington has been on the rise for years.  It’s well documented in a slew of public opinion polls that show how little faith Americans have in their leaders to be able to compromise and get things done.
 
A recent Bloomberg survey found only 30 percent of the public believes the U.S. is headed in the right direction, with 62 percent saying the country is on the wrong track.  In the wake of last October’s shutdown of the federal government, a CNN-ORC poll found that 83 percent of Americans were dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed. An ABC News-Washington Post survey from the same period found that 77 percent of those surveyed believe members of Congress are out for themselves, while only 20 percent thought that they had the country’s best interests in mind.
 
It is dismal poll results like that that recently brought together an impressive group from both major political parties for a discussion on how to end the gridlock. The groups included former congressional leaders, cabinet secretaries and White House chiefs of staff. The discussion was sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center and the USA Today newspaper and took place at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.
 
There are no easy solutions to the problem, but there was plenty of agreement within the group about the causes of the current political dysfunction in Washington. The two parties have verged away from the political center reflecting a polarized country.  The public sees politicians as more interested in saving their own careers than doing what’s right for the country. And there is a general lack of civility among Washington’s political elite that sets the tone for endless political attacks and stalemate.
 
Former Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine decided not to seek re-election in 2012 because she was tired of the partisan gridlock.  “It’s all about the next election.  It isn’t about what we can do to craft the best policies to solve the problems. Absent in all of this is that they are not problem-solving anymore. It is always scoring political points.”
 
Josh Bolten, who served as President George W. Bush’s White House chief of staff, said it was important to break what he called a cycle of political attacks and recriminations. “Both sides need to overcome that short term instinct because what is going to happen is that the cycle of retaliation will just continue on and they need to put that aside.”
 
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
 
Longtime observers of Washington politics note that members of Congress used to socialize more with each other and had more contact with the president, who would use social occasions and personal meetings to try and find compromise on major issues of the day.  Today there is less interaction among lawmakers from different parties, something Victoria Kennedy would like to change.  Kennedy was married to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, a Democrat, and is co-founder of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. “I think the people need to speak out and say this isn’t what we want of our government, this isn’t what we want of our elected representatives and we want you to break bread together”, she told the gathering.

But it goes beyond speaking to one another, says former Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi. Lott was the Republican majority leader in the Senate during much of Bill Clinton’s presidency and recalls plenty of political battles. But Lott says politicians today are much more committed to their own views and less willing to compromise, which he says hurts the country.  “It takes give and take. Having been in those positions where you have to make decisions, just hard-nosed partisanship where you say ‘it’s my way or the highway’ and we are not going to do anything unless we do it our way, it won’t work in a legislative body. You need to stand by your principles but you also have to be a pragmatist.”
 
Voters Must Play a Role
 
But in order to truly change the dysfunction in Washington, Americans need to get more engaged in elections and the political process, says former Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla of Texas. “You vote for these people, America. They reflect America’s attitude now, unfortunately.  America really has to reflect upon itself now and how at the grassroots level they have helped create this situation in Washington and try to fix it.”
 
Some form of gridlock seems likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future.  Democrats control the White House and the Senate while Republicans hold a firm majority in the House of Representatives. Americans will have their next chance to reshape Washington in congressional midterm elections in November when all 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be at stake along with 36 of the 100 seats in the Senate.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid