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Chad Selweski

Chad Selweski

Congressional Chaos

January 19, 2017

Heading into the New Year, some Republican and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill want us to believe that 2018 will be a year of bipartisanship in Congress.  Don’t laugh – yes, they actually said that.  What the House and Senate leadership would like you to ignore is that the lack of compromise or give-and-take in Congress is at a 100-year high, according to a study recently completed by a GOP operative.

Rather than genteel bipartisan cooperation, Michigan voters should brace for an onslaught of hyper-partisan campaign rhetoric as the state may experience several competitive congressional races in this year’s midterms. Things are about to get nasty.  Yet, back in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell assures us that, “We hope that 2018 will be a year of more bipartisan cooperation,” as he incredulously predicted “a significant number of Democrats” will support President Trump’s agenda.

On the other side of the aisle, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is reportedly pursuing a pre-election strategy that relies on getting a few low-priority bipartisan bills passed to give the impression that the Dems are capable of collaboration, unlike the strident GOP. Ten Democratic senators are up for reelection in states the president carried in 2016, so the trick for the Dems is to look capable of governing while not granting too many Republican victories on legislation.  At the same time, McConnell and Schumer will push the envelope on appearing reasonable and rational while fully aware that they cannot alienate their fringe constituencies, respectively, on the far right and the far left.

Do they not realize that their sales pitches sound like BS to the average, middle-of-the-road voter who has no strong allegiance to either party?  Do they not recognize that, in the national tug-of-war over politics, nearly identical criticisms of the opposition are simply transposed, depending on who currently sits in the Oval Office?  The two sides blindly switch positions 180 degrees to provide partisan comfort to the faithful.  These hypocritical divisions and defenses range from big issues like the economy and the battle against ISIS to more miniscule matters such as the amount of time the president spends golfing or the relative grace demonstrated by the First Lady.

Voters See Through the Charade

Independent, moderate voters see through this charade and, in the midst of this political whiplash, can’t help but painfully shake their heads.  On Capitol Hill, both sides are so obsessed with the upcoming 2018 congressional campaigns that, like some ethically comprised re-election candidate for a lowly city council seat, they govern in a juvenile manner with the intent of manufacturing partisan talking points for use at election time.  Potent attack ads dance in their heads.

Most of the internal deliberation in the House and Senate focuses not on what is good for the country or how to break through the gridlock, but what PR messages are available to convince voters that one party is better than the other. This is the sports-like “Yea, Team!” approach that is ruining our politics.

While the continued funding of the government – one of the most basic duties of Congress – remained in jeopardy over the last several days, key Democrats and Republicans fret not over a government shutdown but rather how they can shape this game of “chicken” to their advantage.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in 2013 disastrously followed this phony approach of portraying a government shutdown as taking a principled stand. He thought that might be his ticket to the White House. Now, Sen Bernie Sanders of Vermont, still eyeing the Oval Office in 2020, gleefully predicted recently that forcing a shutdown presents an “opportunity” for Democrats to boost 2018 turnout and seize control of the House and Senate.

As these games are played out, the endless attempts by hopelessly partisan Republicans and Democrats at the grassroots level to declare superiority fail miserably when faced with the fact that Washington, Congress and the President all are scorned by the overall electorate.

Darkness Across the Land

If you take a look at what America is saying and feeling, the darkness as we head into the 2018 election season filters through.  A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll last fall found that about 7 in 10 Americans think the problems in U.S. politics have reached a dangerous new low point, and a similar 7 in 10 say political divisions are at least as big as during the Vietnam war. A disturbing 36 percent are “not proud” of the way democracy works in this country.

In a late December CNN/SSRS nationwide survey, a majority said Congress rammed through the Republican tax reform bill without regard to the middle class, and just 27 percent said the GOP made a “good faith effort to cooperate with Democrats on the tax bill.” As a result, barely one-third of independents supported the final product.

Monmouth University poll published earlier this month found this dystopian view of the U.S. in 2018: Only half feel our current functioning of government is basically sound; 81 percent think that the nation’s Founders would be upset with the way Congress and the presidency have been working over the past 10 years; most Americans are either dissatisfied with (60 percent), or angry (20 percent) at Washington; about two-thirds feel that the country has become more divided since Trump took office, while only 9 percent see an improvement.

Within the Washington bubble, none if this is a reality. In 2018, on the floors of the House and Senate we will see lots of finger-pointing, but few handshakes. The goal pursued by both parties is not common sense solutions but rather cynical moves designed to provide a leg up at the ballot box in November.

What we have is a cat-and-mouse game that only serves to expose most Republican and Democratic members of Congress as a bunch of rats.

A freelance writer from Macomb County, Chad Selweski was the political reporter at The Macomb Daily for nearly 30 years. At the Daily he earned 50 journalism awards and in 2014 he was named by Politico as one of the “Media Stars” in seven political battleground states. He can be reached at chad.b.selweski@gmail.com.

January 22, 2018 · Filed under Chad Selweski


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