Ideas. Action. Results.

Modest steps can help fix Congress, says Jason Grumet

The Christian Science Monitor

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

We live in a closely divided, ideologically sorted, and politically polarized nation. Despite these deep-seated differences, there is one view shared by nearly all Americans: “Congress isn’t working.” Many believe the dysfunction is structural – even permanent – and fear that America’s best days have passed. Despite years of reform, we have torrents of campaign money propelling toxic media into gerrymandered districts. It’s no wonder that many eligible voters stay home. But this despair is happily misplaced. Our focus on the “unholy trinity” of money, media, and “mandering” both misdiagnoses the problem and, worse yet, offers few practical solutions…

Rather than cursing these head winds, there is a different path of more pragmatic reforms that would enable our government to once again be both partisan and productive. The goal is not nostalgia for gentler times. Amid bitter political conflict ranging from a protracted shutdown to an impeachment, President Clinton and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R) of Georgia negotiated welfare reform, tax changes, and fiscal agreements that supported a roaring economy and a budget surplus. More telling, in the midst of the impeachment, members of both parties continued to develop legislation on issues from pesticide toxicity standards to Y2K. Mr. Clinton was again signing laws within weeks of being impeached.