Of politicians, and statesmen

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Solutions exist, but hyper-partisans prefer to divide and sow conflict.

WITH ALL THE hyper-ventilating by politicians and breathless yakking from the television chattering class, people might think the drama about whether the government would or would not shut down really mattered.


The bureaucracy grinds on, whether it might miss a day here or there. The stakes are not nearly as apocalyptic as the creatures of Washington might want you to believe. Relax. We're OK.

SO LET'S TALK about what's not OK. That's the hyper-partisan dance that routinely prevents both Republicans and Democrats from accomplishing even the most fundamental duties they have been elected to perform.

Like an annual budget. Failure to pass one is what causes these almost monthly dramas about whether the government will or won't shut down.

This is third grade stuff. This is adult day care stuff. A bunch of whiny crybabies saying they won't play unless they get to set all the rules and others agree in advance to lose.

It ought to embarrass every American, no matter their particular political persuasion. Republicans in Congress scheme to blame Democrats, and Democrats scheme to blame Republicans. Meanwhile, nobody is showing up for work. It's all political showbiz.

THE FIRST THING to remember about this peculiar go-round is that Republicans are in complete control of everything - the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House. Yet, routinely, they still fail to get anything done smoothly. Good lord, you won. Get to work.

Here's a big part of the problem. Congress doesn't operate on the premise of going forward with what can pass. Instead, the operating principle is not to advance anything unless it will pass only with votes from the majority party. That's a recipe for chaos, confusion and confrontation.

Take the so-called "Dreamers" immigration matter as a classic example. A bipartisan group of Republican and Democrat senators worked out a deal, took it to the White House and ran headlong into the, um, infamous "s-hole countries" meeting. After confusing signals from the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to let the deal come to the floor for a vote. Guess what: It would have passed, with more than enough votes from both Republicans and Democrats.

But in today's political climate, that's not acceptable. One-party rule, by golly, must be one-party rule. If the other party might join in then something must be wrong with the legislation.

So: Do nothing. Have a big fight. Point fingers. Wag poisonous tongues. Act all wounded and pious and innocent. Play to the base. To hell with everybody else.

JAMES FREEMAN CLARKE, a 19th century author and theologian, said, "A politician is a man who thinks of the next election, while the statesman thinks of the next generation."

To be kind, let's just say Washington has a serious shortage of statesmen (or women, to bring that principle into the 21st century).

Americans often bemoan the constant bickering and divisions that undermine the "united" part of the United States.

Can we Americans commit to the truth? The fires of division are being fanned by political parties and career politicians because it works for them, as Clarke said, come "the next election." Which is all they care about - gaining power, holding onto power by any means necessary, bossing everybody around.

America's problem is not lack of a middle ground. The problem is politicians who recoil from middle ground.

And voters who let them stay in office anyway.

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