Looking back over my thirty plus years as a Washington Lobbyists rarely have I witnessed the decline and dysfunction of the Congress, as maybe the case today? No doubt this decline is associated with the lack of approval and trust in Members of Congress.
However, several factors in addition to the decline in leadership, have also contributed to the ineffectiveness of our political leaders, namely:
The coarsening of our public discourse
The degree to which ideological purity intrudes on political pragmatism
The growing importance of money in politics
The refusal of individuals to collaborate for the common good
Voltaire’s aphorism, “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” was once a sentiment in the Congress that encouraged going along with imperfect legislation in order to accomplish the public interest. Today the center cannot hold and that sentiment has given way to the extremes of both political parties.
Perhaps the present popularity of Friends Divided by Gordon S. Wood explains the growing awareness of the need of our current political leaders to collaborate for the common good. The dual biography of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, describes two political rivals who could scarcely have come from different worlds and been more different in temperament, yet did so much to craft birth of the Republic. Notwithstanding their falling-out, in their retirement the two patriarchs set aside their partisan differences and became reconciled in friendship.
If Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who claimed to be friends and were divided on so many issues, could reconcile for the public good, perhaps political leaders of today, like Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse could also set aside their partisan differences and reach across the aisle to the likes of Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly.