By some accounts, and in my book one account is pretty much enough, we’re settling into a double dip recession. In a previous show, my co-host Glenn argued against this notion, saying that to be in the second dip we needed to definitively come out of the first dip. Okay, well said. But I had seen tangible signs of economic progress – the GDP nudging up steadily, unemployment leveling off, the housing market rebounding, retail sales and manufacturing on the mend. Now it feels like we’re back in a Bugs Bunny Cartoon and we’re Wily E Coyote about to take the plunge off the cliff. Maybe it’s not all doom and gloom, but that’s almost beside the point.
While we hang in this dark and scary place, emnity oozes from the pursed lips of the powerful, perceptually positioned as outsiders forcefully taking over a paralyzed system. The rhetoric of revolt and confrontation stirs up anger and divisiveness, and whips the appropriately narrowly defined electorate into action, resulting in a record few number of really angry people at the polls, and the status quo in question.
Meanwhile back at the office, people are hurting — people who know no politics, political parties or even tea party revolts. People are losing jobs, still finding it hard to afford quality health care, state budgets are stripping education and transportation dollars, and the country is growing more polarized.
Through all of this, we’ve lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable, as if somehow it’s no longer in vogue. Can you imagine Bob Dole today presiding over the Senate and authentically calling George Mitchell, his rival leader, his “good friend”? One of the things I find most striking about the current Congress is anecdotal — that my friends who still work there tell me that very few people on opposite sides of the aisle talk to each other anymore, and as such they don’t like each other. It’s so easy to wreak havoc when you don’t have to look someone in the eye or talk to them the next day. One of my best friends, who worked with me in the Senate for a Republican (when I worked for a Democrat) told me of an infamous trip to Russia spearheaded by a major Republican and Democratic Senator (among others), and how on that trip the two of them did shots together, ate dinner together and later upon their return, worked really well together. These two senators made things happen — not major issues, although they had their fair share — but when a little logjam came up in the Senate, they were able to talk to each other because they had a mutual respect for each other as people. The kind earned when you have a drink and talk about your family or your kids.
So maybe in this crazy election season, at a time of true crisis in our country, we need to resurrect a tradition of the old day of Congress. If all else fails, lets shut these folks in a room, order a few bottles of liquor and let nature take its course. They’ll either be a bar-room brawl, or these folks will finally learn to work together.
The only thing I know for sure, is that if we keep staring at each other from across the void, hurling insults at one another, nothing is going to happen, and nobody, and I mean nobody, wins.
— Jeff Kimball