Tom Horner, a GOP consultant and one-time assistant to former U S Senator Dave Durenberger (R-MN) and Tim Penny, a former Democratic member of the House of Representatives, suggested Sunday in their Star Tribune op-ed that the solution to Washington’s gridlock is in the good work of non-government groups and organizations. This idea isn’t without merit — at least up to a point — but it misses most important points by a large measure.
Horner and Penny backed up their argument Monday morning on Minnesota Public Radio, essentially focusing their thesis on the idea that Congress is broken and private and civic groups must lead where Congress cannot.
Horner and Penny, self-described moderates, strike me as good guys with good intentions, but the seem a little stuffy in a brandy-snifter sort of way, talking big ideas without much thought behind them. In this case, they strike me as naive.
They want to argue that it is time to rethink the role of government in the United States, but in the end they really direct their attention at how the process of governing has devolved and suggest that the solution to Washington gridlock and partisanship depends must come from outside Congress and Washington.
This is a great idea, I suppose, but I’m not entirely sure what that means. There is that overly used saying that warns us that elections have consequences. This is another way of saying we get what we deserve. It is the process of selecting our so-called leaders that is the problem. You cannot make the argument that private and community groups do not participate in the process of elections. They do. So one has to wonder exactly how a grassroots solution that hasn’t otherwise already emerged would foster under another plan.
For the sake of argument, let’s say blue ribbon panels of America’s best, brightest, and most thoughtful citizens do organize and do debate the problems of the day. Good! I am all for it. Really, I am. I kind of like the idea of thoughtful people gathering in meetings and conventions so they can debate and think about the big picture. Idea people…where are they?
But debating is one thing, change is another.
There’s one big obstacle and that is the law. I’m not saying organizing ideas around political change is illegal, at least not yet, but it is the clowns in Washington who make the law. Solutions to today’s problems exist, but that doesn’t change the facts in Washington. We elect idiots, that’s the problem. Or, more correctly, a poorly informed electorate elects idiots. That is the real problem.
And just a little pet peeve — can’t let it go — this is not a bi-partisan issue. It isn’t. Horner and Penny like to claim they are good moderates and all that bull shit, but when blame is earned, it’s deserved.
Horner and Penny claim, for example, that in the current political malaise Democrats need to understand that cutting spending isn’t inherently a bad thing, falling back on the same misleading trope that right-wing hacks use: There are not enough rich taxpayers to pay all our bills.
Facts might help. The deficit — as almost always seems to do under a Democratic administration — is in retreat, health care costs are rising at the slowest pace ever, government spending is reducing faster today compared with the previous administration’s record.
Our problems are not spending problems. They are funding problems. If you don’t want to pay for legislation, don’t approve it. The Affordable Care Act is law. Elections have consequences, remember? It is what it is. To hold the national budget hostage to change the legislative process is wrong and one side and one side only is taking hostage. That’s the most damning fact. And not even the most eager panel of community and business leaders can change that dismal fact without first changing who we send to represent our interests at the lawmaking level.
Ultimately campaigns and elections make the difference. The ideological crisis sweeping through government today will remain until better people are elected into office. That’s the solution.
- Getting along: Former governor spends life in middle of public affairs (winonadailynews.com)
- The Boehner Bunglers (nytimes.com)
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