I tried to watch President Trump’s primetime address and the democratic response last night but couldn’t get through it. Two reasons.
First, I knew it didn’t matter what Trump said or what the response was. Nothing would come of it so why bother? Second, the reason behind America’s political divide is so annoying, I’d just as soon not be reminded of it.
Still, I find it cathartic to get this stuff off my chest so I can work with a clear head. Also I have something to say, so there is that.
I bet everyone thinks the gridlock in Washington is because Congress is dysfunctional. All anyone on Capitol Hill cares about is getting reelected, so everyone just plays to their base, nobody reaches across the aisle and nothing gets done.
While all that is true, it’s not the fundamental reason behind the gridlock and nothing getting done. The underlying problem is that everyone in Congress is simply doing what they perceive their constituents want them to do, and that’s dig in their heels.
Think about it. The right says we need to fix our broken immigration system and that starts with border security. And they’re right. Nobody on either side disagrees with that. But the left wants Trump blocked at every turn. They say that’s what the right tried to do to President Obama. And you know, they’re mostly right about that too.
The real problem that nobody seems to get is this: Trump was elected as a reaction to Obama’s policies. And Obama was elected as a reaction to George W. Bush’s policies. And as long as the pendulum keeps swinging from one extreme to the other, this is the way it’s going to be.
As long as the American people continue to signal that they want a pendulum swing, Congress will continue to do their bidding. That’s what we elected them to do – to reflect our wishes. And you’ve got to admit, the perception from each side is pretty darn extreme.
The only way for us to stop the gridlock is not for both political parties to suddenly acquire some practical common sense and realize they want the same things – to fix the immigration system – but for we the people to take a step back and realize that the other side, the side we hate, is of our own making. And that enough is enough.
It reminds me of a childhood story I tell from time to time. Stop me if you’ve heard it before.
I once came home crying to my mother about how my best friend and I had a fight and wouldn’t talk to each other. My mom said I had to be the bigger man and apologize.
“But mom,” I cried, “he started it.”
“Maybe he did,” she replied, “but until one of you apologizes, you will never be friends again.”
So I followed her advice and that was that. Everything went back to normal.
The same thing is playing out on a national scale. One side is going to have to bite the bullet and hold out an olive branch that signals the equivalent of an apology. Do I think that’s actually going to happen? Not while Trump is President, no. You can almost hear each side whining, “But mom, he started it.”
Nevertheless, as long as the pendulum keeps swinging back and forth this way — with one side in power and the other obstructing — this will remain the norm in Washington. That is, until the American people look in the mirror and realize they are the problem and Congress is simply a reflection of what they see.
Image credit Elton Harding / Flickr