“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
While some debate whether Albert Einstein is the original source of this quote, the power of the message in these time in which we live is beyond question.
Increasingly, people are asking how to get out of the mess we witness in Washington, D.C. While the balance of power in the Senate will not be fully known until next month with the special elections in Georgia, there will clearly be deep divides in the legislative branch giving the newly forming Biden administration significant challenges.
Can we rise above the course debate of the past several years?
I hope so, and I think so. The will of the people seems to show a strong preference for “getting something done,” as opposed to constant and frequently petty opposition for the sake of improving political positioning. However, if we are to find a more constructive path, the elected officials in Washington need more positive experiences around collaboration. Over time, the acts of compromise and negotiation have been eclipsed by less productive behavior. Simply put, relationships have ruptured and need to be repaired. All parties need to find a better, more productive path.
Just where might that be found? Well, tackling the nation’s infrastructure needs may be one area where agreement can be found. This is something about which there is agreement at the federal level as well as at other levels of government where infrastructure needs are appreciated. If focus on something with broad support can be done early in 2021, then perhaps the positive experience will bring potential agreements around more challenging policy debates.
While reasonable, this becomes possible only if behaviors really do change!
First, we the people as voters need to make clear that the same old approach is absolutely not deserving of our support. Nothing motivates elected officials more than the threat of losing voter appeal.
And, elected officials must be held to a higher standard.
It needs to be made clear that as an elected official, if you focus your time on delivering soundbites on cable news, then you are not serving people.
If you refuse to seek agreement through debate and compromise, then you are not serving the people.
If you think more about blocking action on important measures than finding a path forward, then you are not serving the people.
If you put partisanship ahead of policy making, then you are not serving the people.
And, on this last note, lest one thinks that partisanship is a safer place to be, the most recent Gallup survey asking about which party people identify with found that less than a third of voters identified with either Republican or Democrats. “Independent” is actually the place more people define themselves today than with either party.
There is a path forward, but it surely is not based on doing the same things that have been done year after year in Washington. We do need positive action on a host of issues confronting the federal government and as voters we really do need to demand results from both parties!
Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore.