By Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
The latest election carried a simple mandate: Don’t drive our country into the ground.
In the days after the most recent election, President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner each vowed to work together to avoid leading the country over the so-called fiscal cliff. But at the same time, Obama seemed to indicate the election meant Americans are behind his proposal to raise tax rates on the wealthy. Some Republican leaders countered that they have a mandate of their own not to raise taxes.
Exit polls show Obama may be right, at least in a technical sense, as exit polls showed voters support raising taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. But the numbers aren’t overwhelming and perhaps miss the greater point.
Americans are tired of the blame game in Washington and want a compromise to be reached so the nation can begin cutting the deficit and not fear partisan politics will result in massive tax cuts, indiscriminate spending cuts and the possibility of defaulting on our financial commitments.
Put simply, we want Congress to behave like adults.
Little more than a week before the election, former Congressman Jim Leach came to the University of Northern Iowa campus to speak about the importance of civility in American politics.
Leach wasn’t exactly cut out for today’s Washington. He was long known as a moderate and in today’s Republican party, that’s often an invitation to having a primary opponent looking to take the seat away. While Leach faced no primary challenge in 2006, he lost to Dave Loebsack in a year when he received criticism from his own party for his support of stem cell research and his insistence that the national GOP not mail an advertisement that would hit Loebsack on the issue of gay marriage.
In his speech, Leach questioned whether devotion to political parties comes first or does the nation’s best interest really guide today’s politics.
“Compromise may once have been the art of politics. Now intransigence is the art of survival,” Leach said.
Leach advocates people demand more thoughtful discussion, where people can appreciate others’ point of view and find ways to compromise for the greater good. He said the county has significant barriers to that now, as money has become all the more important in the political system.
“It’s clear an awful lot of citizens in American have lost confidence in institutions of government. They have become disrespectful of their leaders. They’ve become disrespectful of other belief systems and of each other,” Leach said in that speech.
The president and Congress have until the end of the year to work something out to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” It’s going to be a steep climb from where they’re starting to the level of civility and compromise needed.
But it’s time both sides heed the real mandate: Practicality trumps ideology. Get it done. Avoid the cliff.