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

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend 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.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

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