If there's any hope left, it may lie with a court ruling.
THIS PAST WEEK, citizens witnessed two examples - one from each political party - of why it's so hard in these ideologically rigid and angry times to make government work.
Here in Wisconsin, longtime Assembly Democrat Rep. Peter Barca of Racine stepped down as minority leader. He had endured harsh criticism from within his own party because he had the temerity to cross the Iron Curtain - we should stop calling it by the benign term of aisle - and show support with majority Republicans for the Foxconn development.
In Washington, President Trump reached across the partisan divide and worked with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to do a deal on extending the nation's debt ceiling. Republicans in both chambers were fuming. One compared Trump's actions to running hoses to fill the swamp rather than drain it.
CALL IT PARALYSIS ON PARADE, further evidence the two political parties are less interested in getting things done than they are in simply bickering over having everything their way.
Foxconn intends to build and create thousands of jobs somewhere relatively near Racine. Barca would have been betraying the people who elected him to office if he had blindly hewed to the partisan line with Democrats who opposed the plan. Is that the message the Democratic Party is sending to its elected representatives? Put partisanship ahead of your constituents' wishes and interests? Really? No wonder Democrats have been wandering in the wilderness for years in Wisconsin.
Likewise, in Washington, have things reached the point where presidents are never supposed to work with the opposition party on anything, even something that shouldn't be controversial like preserving economic stability by dealing with the nation's debt ceiling? Is the message there supposed to be, for whichever party is temporarily in charge, only matters capable of passing on strictly partisan votes may advance? We've seen that before. On Obamacare, Republicans didn't have the votes to dump it and Democrats didn't have the votes to fix it. So the system just limps along, neither repealed nor repaired. Again, the message is obvious for anyone willing to see and hear. These politicians are not serious about getting things done. They just want to have their way.
THE PROBLEM IS easily summed up, in a word - ideology. The two political parties have retreated to their respective corners. The left would rather burn down the house than cooperate with Republicans. And the right would rather throw gas on that fire than work with Democrats.
Republican President Ronald Reagan regularly met with and socialized with Democrat House Speaker Tip O'Neill, cutting deals where necessary to keep the ball moving downfield. Today, selective memory elevates Reagan to philosopher-god of the implacable right, skipping over the parts in which he worked with the opposition to get things done. Meanwhile, Democrats lionize leaders like Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, again skipping the chapters where they actively encouraged bipartisanship.
Reagan famously said, "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem."
Let us recast that quote: Partisanship is not the solution to our problem, partisanship is the problem.
The good, everyday people of America are weary of all this destructive bickering. They want to see things get done, problems get fixed, and they don't care if solutions come from Republicans or Democrats, left or right. Instinctively, they get it: One side can't always be right and the other side always wrong. In their own lives good, solid Americans have to get along, play well with others and cooperate if they want to achieve success. They can't comprehend why politicians are unable to do the same.
A FINAL WORD: Making matters worse, especially in more recent times, is the practice of thoroughly politicizing the constitutionally required 10-year census process of redrawing legislative district lines. The more each district is purified - that is, rigged with computer precision to favor one party over another - the more candidates running for those offices feel pressured never to compromise or work across party lines. The net effect is to drive both parties to their extremes. Good for rabid partisans? Perhaps. Terrible for the country. The United States Supreme Court has accepted a Wisconsin challenge to partisan gerrymandering that could change the landscape and help return competitiveness - and common sense - to the election process. Let's hope the justices do what's right for the people and clamp down on partisan cheating. Reagan was right. Government certainly is the problem when it is operated like a private club that caters strictly to partisan interests.