In recent months we’ve have had critical things to say about a Tea Party movement that’s long on anger yet short on knowledge and analysis. But we also understand where that anger is coming from. We, too, are deeply frustrated by a Congress that seems more interested in partisan bickering than legislating, a befuddled administration that seems unwilling or unable to lead and a gridlocked political system that seems unable to respond to the critical challenges facing our nation and our world.
Sadly, there appears little likelihood that next week’s congressional midterm elections will improve matters, and the results could, in fact, deepen the partisan gridlock gripping Washington.
Facing a daunting array of problems — a nuclear Iran, international jihadism, a dangerously high unemployment rate, an unsustainable federal deficit to name but a few — the next Congress must find ways to rise above the dysfunctional partisanship that has defined the current one.
President Barack Obama needs to show smarter, more sophisticated and more responsive leadership. He must use his considerable communications skills to explain why getting out of our current economic fix will require sacrifices from all of us, and shift to a foreign policy free of wishful thinking.
Congressional Democrats must move beyond crude interest-group politics and find ways to work with their Republican colleagues to hammer out compromise solutions to problems that defy easy answers.
Republicans in Congress — whether or not they win control of one or both Houses — must develop a constructive legislative program, and not focus only on blocking everything proposed by Obama.
Lawmakers from both parties must move beyond rigid ideologies that can only make it harder to solve real-world problems that don’t fit the textbook definitions of political theorists. Tax cuts can’t be an absolute; neither can unrestrained social service spending. Without compromise and without fresh ideas, both parties will offer little more than a prescription for more gridlock.
And our elected officials aren’t the only ones who have to change if we are to respond effectively to the multiple crises we face — as a resilient America has responded to so many past challenges.
As citizens and voters, we need to dig beneath the slogans and slick attack ads and seek real answers, and we have to do a better job holding our elected representatives accountable.
And the measure for that accountability must be actions, not bitterly partisan words.