I’ve been growing increasingly disheartened in recent days and weeks by the partisan gridlock that seems intractable. CNN just showed a poll in which 48% of Americans are angry with Congress in general over the gridlock, with only 11% blaming Republicans only and 9% blaming Republicans only. Will this message ever actually get through to those in Congress? Or are they deaf to it.
David Gergen on the current dysfunctional culture. “We’ve been increasingly partisan through the nineties, but there was a moment when it seemed that Obama could actually bring about the change he called for. There was a sense of hope in the country but the moment of hope seems to have slipped away from us.” Gergen went on to talk about “clawing partisans on both sides who demonize the other side” has led Americans to a sense that “Maybe we can’t get out of this — maybe we’re doomed to gridlock.”
Gergen is one of the best and relatively non-partisan observers on the scene. He’s served half a dozen administrations, Republican and Democrat. He notes: “I’ve seen in the past when it’s hard for Congress to act. What is different now is that the partisanship is pervasive acrose so many issues at a time when America is facing so many challenges.”
This rings particularly true when coming from Gergen, but what about Evan Bayh’s comments: “We’re trapped in a dysfunctional system. We need reform. The public’s business isn’t getting done. We’ve to vote out the idealogues and partisans.” My sense is that he’s saying what he genuinely believes — but immediately the Republicans are dismissing it as posturing and claiming that Bayh is just trying to avoid getting swept out in the wave they see building up againt the Democrats in November. And the beat goes on.
Gergen says there are generational issues in play. “When we were growing up there was a World War II generation in charge of much of the country. There were strong republicans and strong democrats — but first and foremost strong Americans. This came from a sense of shared sacrifice. That sense has diminished as the World War II generation has faded away. Now we have baby boomers — culture wars …..the divisions we’re seeing grow out of a deteriorating, rotting political culture.”
I wonder if that’s what’s at play here. I have spent much of my life pondering the idea of America and believing in it. Now I’m starting to lose faith and wonder if decline is inevitable.