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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More