As part of my homework for one of my journalism courses, I was responsible last night for watching the State of the Union and picking out newsworthy quotes. As a registered voter in Massachusetts and a citizen of this country in a time of hardships, my interest in politics has been growing. I voted in every election I have been able to vote in since registering to vote in April of 2008.
Last night, I felt President Obama’s State of the Union hit the problems this country faces straight on. Greatest of all, he pointed out the unacceptable party line divide that is prohibiting Congress from doing anything useful.
Last week, Massachusetts elected Scott Brown to the Senate, choosing him to finish the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s final term. This election eliminated the filibuster in the Senate in which Democrats held the all-important two-thirds majority. I did not vote for Brown and I am still hopeful that this country can achieve health care reform, but I am grateful that Brown’s election to the Senate will finally force our representatives in Washington to do what they are supposed to do: go past their party lines and work together to pass legislation that will benefit the citizens of this country.
The biggest issue this country faces today is not a struggling economy, two international wars, health care wrongs or environmental stalemates. Instead, it is the refusal of citizens to support anything that their political party will not support.
“If the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, a supermajority, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well,” Obama said. “Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership.”
Now, I disagree that saying no to everything is even good short-term politics. What does it accomplish? While achieving agendas solely to benefit their parties, members of Congress are hurting the American people. They are preventing real, beneficial legislation from being created and passed. As George Washington warned in his farewell address,
“All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and
associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design
to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and
action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this
fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency . . . However combinations or associations of the above description may now
and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time
and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and
unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people,
and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying
afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
Political parties are natural, almost an inherent side-effect of democracy. I do not believe that we should completely abandon these parties, but we need to remember that we cannot draw the line at a particular party’s platform. Democrats must compromise with Republicans, Republicans must compromise with Democrats. This is why we elected our representatives to serve in Congress, not to vote only Republican, but to discuss and create laws and reforms.
This country is in desperate need of health care reform. It is in desperate need of an economic fix. While it is fine to disagree with a particular bill, it is a failure of the system to simply say no, I will not vote for that. Rather, it is imperative for Congress to say, “I disagree with that for these reasons, and these are my ideas and solutions for those problems.” Nothing productive comes out of simply saying no.
Obama has not yet ended the war, not yet saved the economy, not yet created viable health care reform, not yet changed the way our government works. He has, however, tried to create that change. It is time now for Congress, on the parts of both Democrats and Republicans, to change too. They need to start doing their jobs. They need to try.
In the Republican response last night, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell said, “Today, the federal government is trying to do too much.” Well Governor McDonnell, it is better to try to do too much than to try to do nothing at all.