As I mentioned last week , Congressman Cleaver made one of his regular visits to The Chamber recently. The room was packed as it always is for him. He was particularly somber as he provided an update on national developments – and if that wasn’t depressing enough, then he moved on to the rancor in Washington among legislators and the parties which is worse than he’s ever seen it…. in danger of destroying our country…… an “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude.
As a result Cleaver said, progress is stifled and the focus is keeping the majority – at all costs. While he admitted that most of his colleagues shared his concern, none had a remedy. It doesn’t sound like much fun. No wonder so many legislators are calling it quits. Perhaps it’s quit or be defeated in November. A Pew survey conducted in the spring ranked the favorable rating for elected officials at 25%! Probably worse now. Further, the survey indicates that a majority of Americans see members of Congress, as opposed to the system, as the problem. Comments from the public include; they only care about their careers, are influenced by special interests, are willing to compromise, and are profligate and out-of-touch.
To make matters worse, Cleaver also pointed to a lack of understanding among citizens about basic civics. Many refer to him as Senator and often confuse the rules of the Senate and House, where the operating rules are very different.
Personally, I witness the anger, rancor, some call it hatred – –every day on talk radio and TV. It gives me a headache. Cleaver’s observations are right on target. So what can be done about it?
Is there a role the business community can play, after all they provide the bulk of the contributions?
What about a national alliance of ministers?
Would schools and PTAs be effective in emphasizing civics?
What about taking a lesson from two cordial Irishmen, President Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill who after a legislative disagreement on a mammoth scale in the 80’s would get together at the White House to share a drink and discuss how to proceed.
How about Emanuel Cleaver as national minister of civility?
Don’t know the answer, but for the good of our country, something’s got to change.