A brand new poll is out by the Havard-Harris organization (their first one collaborating) and it produces some interesting results. There are some interesting figures in the poll and I think it confirms what many Americans have believed but politicians refuse to acknowledge.
Allow me to preface this with a personal story. Years ago I was a partner in a firm with former Senator Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ). There was no finer man than Dennis. He was always helpful and when we were in a meeting together he was always deferential he believed you knew more about the subject matter than him. Dennis and I were having lunch in the Senate Dining Room and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) came over and sat down with us. He and Dennis were good friends and I was acquainted with Sen. Kennedy from my time working on the Labor and Human Resource Committee.
Kennedy started to describe the difference in the Senate from when he arrived in the 1960’s and what it had evolved into at that time. He said when he came to the Senate that old curmudgeon from Mississippi, Sen. Jim Eastland (D-MS) was the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said we would debate a bill on the floor and adjourn for the day early in the evening. Eastland could get a bipartisan group of Senators from the Committee down to his hideaway office. He would get out a bottle, pour us all a drink, and we would continue to discuss the issues in the bill and normally resolve all the major ones amongst ourselves. He would then assign a couple of us to go to dinner and work out the minor details. The next day we would come to the floor of the Senate and pass the bill with strong bipartisan support.
Today, he said, some 26 year old in my office writes me a speech on an issue and I give that speech in front of the CSPAN cameras. I would go outside the chamber and be in front of another 4-5 cameras and basically put my feet in stone. The other side is doing the same thing. The problem, he said, is we don’t really talk to each other anymore, we talk to cameras.
I have always remembered that conversation and believed that he fully understood the problem. The Congress has become to partisan and members are playing to their base instead of solving the nation’s problems.
So how does this fit into the poll? Well the poll found that 73% of voters want to see Democrats work with President Trump with only 27% saying they should oppose Trump on every move. The numbers were pretty similar when they reversed the question with 68% saying that President Trump should be willing to work with Democrats on the major issues. What this means is the American public thinks their elected officials should learn to talk to each other again and start using the dirtiest word in Washington, compromise.
The problem is that politicians tend to listen to the loudest people in the room and they are normally far left or far right. These groups practice in your face politics and they are the ones we see on TV demonstrating. They are the ones that spend their day on social media posting every negative article they can find about the opposition.
So the real question is can they ever get to a point where they can work with each other? I happen to think there are some real deal-makers on both sides of the aisle. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the current Democrat leader, is well known for his penchant for making a deal that that means a compromise. Similarly Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee has a reputation of working out a deal. Democrats like Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Chris Coons (D-DE) are also deal makers. On the Republican side you have Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Sue Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ) who have all shown in the past they can work with the other side. I am sure I have left some out so there is hope.
The problem is each side has its shrill barkers. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Al Franken (D-MN) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) are all on the far left of the Democrat party and seem to be in the resist Trump at all costs and at every opportunity. On the Republican side we have Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Mike Lee (R-UT) who are dug in on their issues and refuse to compromise. When you have members of Congress like this fanning the flames of the activists it makes it difficult for more sensible members to get together and work out the problems.
Now the liberals in this country will immediately point to the demonstrations around the country and I will agree that there is a 20% segment of the population that is so angry that Donald Trump won the election that they will mobilize and do anything they can to express their opposition to his Presidency. They will pack town meetings with a goal of stopping dialogue by yelling instead of engaging in a conversation with a member of Congress. They will go to airports and demand that refugees be admitted and they do so without any real knowledge of whether those people have been properly vetted. And within that segment of the population there is a subset that is using the anger of the 20% as cover for their goal of anarchy. They are the ones that cover their faces with masks at demonstrations, they are the ones that smash windows and set cars on fire. But their goals are not the same as the majority demonstrating; they want to turn the United States into a socialist country.
We can only hope that the people will ignore those marching in the streets and start telling their elected officials to start talking to each other and start compromising to get things done. We need solutions to problems, not political statements.