Detroit Free Press
Nov. 4, 2012
Jeff and Nita Send need Washington to get its act together.
The couple are fruit farmers near Traverse City, and -- like farmers across the country -- are waiting on a new farm bill, a massive piece of legislation that in one section gives cash assistance for a cherry crop lost because of last spring's erratic weather.
With the money, the Sends could replace an aging Harvester, fertilize trees and prepare for next year's crop without borrowing.
But the bill is stuck in the U.S. House as Republicans wrangle over whether it cuts deeply enough. Whatever the House approves, a final version will still have to be hammered out with Senate Democrats at a time when such deals are nearly impossible to negotiate...
The causes of political polarization are many. The instantaneous delivery of every utterance from public officials via tweets, Facebook, mass e-mails and Internet-based mainstream and small-stream media is driving equally instantaneous reaction -- and criticism. A loss of competitive congressional and legislative districts gives an edge to one party or another, rather than foster moderate voices.
Still, there are possible solutions.
Redistricting, for example, could be turned over to nonpartisan boards to create competitive districts, potentially breeding more moderation in politicians.
Michael McDonald, government professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., says more primaries could be open with respect to political party -- as they are in Michigan -- which could have the effect of giving more voice to moderate voters.
That would be only a start. Campaign finance laws could be changed to blunt the effect of money in politics, which Jason Grumet, founder of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, said forces legislators to spend more time raising money than negotiating and legislating. He notes that ethics rules have the effect at times of keeping members from socializing over now-prohibited lobbyist-sponsored events. To appear pure and connected to their districts, many members -- Rep. Hansen Clarke of Detroit was one -- took to sleeping on the floors of their offices, rather than moving families to Washington.
"All of this adds up to members of Congress not really knowing each other," Grumet said. And that, he said, lends itself to a partisan atmosphere.
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