The result of this partisanship? A downgrade in our credit rating, tumbling stock prices, decimated 401K’s, and a probable double-dip recession.
And while the average citizen understands how the constant bickering and blaming of the other side worked to keep us at an impasse, the average politician seems utterly unaware of why it happened and the role he/she played in the great divide.
For a time, it looked as though a grand bargain would emerge, struck by President Obama and House Speaker Boehner, and the conflicting sides would find a way to come together, do what was in the best interest of this country, and strike a deal that balanced the concerns of spending and reform.
But then the parties and the special interests and the concerns over the next election got in the way, and suddenly what was left were the vocal minorities and the screams for absolutely no revenue increases and absolutely no entitlement reform and absolutely no compromising with the enemy, a.k.a co-workers on the other side of the aisle.
And so we ended up with a lack-luster deal, one that neither side liked but was the best we could do because of the insistence by parties to demand everything and give nothing. This, even though poll after poll and expert after expert showed that a deal in the form of decreased spending on expenditures as well as entitlement and tax reform and an ending of tax cuts and loopholes for the wealthy was the solution most Americans wanted and economists supported.
Instead, we ended up with small cuts in expenditures (relative to debt), zero entitlement reform, zero revenue increases and a committee that is responsible for doing exactly what several other previous committees were supposed to do – come up with a deal that fixes everything.
Fortunately, not everyone in Arizona’s delegation rejected compromise. In her first trip back to Congress after being shot, Gabrielle Giffords joined fellow Congressman Paul Gosar in courageously voting in favor of a deal saving us from default. Senators John McCain and Jon Kyle, both senior members of Congress who have effectively worked across the aisle in the past, also voted in favor of the deal.
These four individuals recognized the seriousness of the situation and the need to vote for an imperfect deal in order to save the country. For that, they should be thanked. But they should also take heed of the absolute disgust many feel toward Congress and realize how past actions by their parties as well as individual posturing have fueled our current failings.
Six Arizona Representatives refused to vote in favor of the final compromise. Some complained the deal didn’t cut enough while others complained the deal cut the wrong programs or failed to address tax reform. And all of these things are true, but the reason they’re true is because these same Representatives failed to work together to strike a deal that accomplished what the American people said they wanted and what experts said was needed to put our fiscal house in order.
And for this, these six Representatives as well as the vast majority of Congress, share the blame for refusing to be part of the solution and contributing to the dysfunction and certain financial losses for millions of Americans.
And who were the six that voted against the final debt deal, the one that kept us from a catastrophic default? Republicans Trent Franks, Ben Quayle, David Schweikert, and Jeff Flake and Democrats Ed Pastor and Raul Grijalva.
The six dissenting Representatives have said they are proud of the way they voted. Proud of the fact that they held up a compromise by demanding a deal that only served their narrow vision of what’s best for America versus the overwhelming resolution that Americans requested.
And perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this response. After all, take a look at who represents this group and some of their past actions.
Freshman Republican Ben Quayle won his election to the House by calling President Obama the “worst president in history.” Did we really expect he’d be willing to compromise with Democrats? Some of his fellow Republicans who ran against him in the primary, said they would vote for anyone except him and called his campaign tactics as dirty as his Dirty Scottsdale posts as author Brock Landers.
Jeff Flake, a seasoned member of Congress, has recently changed much about his tactics and his political beliefs in the name of reelection. Because Mr. Flake is now running for the Senate, he feels the need to become more conservative and less willing to bend. In other words, he caters to the extreme, knowing he needs to please his party’s base in order to win the primary.
Representative Grijalva, a Democrat, actually called for an economic boycott of our state after the passage of SB1070. I’m no fan of 1070, but I would never wish for my state to suffer financially because of it. I live here. Why would I want to ruin my state? Couldn’t Mr. Grijalva find some other way to express his disapproval? Isn’t he a member of the very body that establishes immigration laws?
But the electorate, too, deserves some of the blame for the ensuing mess. For a while now, many have demanded delegates to sign pledges and take oaths other than the oath of office to ensure compromise is difficult if not impossible. Many of us have cheered as politicians placed blame on the other party and spent more time bashing the policies of others instead of trying to work together to forge policies that offer solutions. We seem immune to the nastiness at the Capitol and indeed, some take joy in the embarrassment and failings of individuals when it means a net benefit for the opposing party.
This toxic atmosphere won’t change until the electorate finally decides it has had enough and refuses to vote for anyone unable to cooperate. It won’t change until our disenfranchised voters come back to the table and take an active part in their democracy. It won’t change until we turn off ranting commentators and tune in to rational news from credible outlets. It won’t change until moderate leaders step up to the plate and offer a different and better approach to the complex problems of our society.
Until then, each of us needs to do our part by calling out elected officials who choose partisanship over compromise and by encouraging others to stay informed and do the one thing that is in our power… vote.