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The Bipartisan Bridge - Background

Where We Are Today

 
"I don't know; I'm not political."
"It really doesn't matter if I vote. All the candidates are the same."
"Everyone takes the credit and no one ever takes the blame."
"I don't care about politics, because nothing ever changes."

Many Americans disavow any interest in or knowledge of politics. Too often, at the root of their avoidance is a varying combination of discontent, disillusionment, disenfranchisement, disgust, and distrust of the political arena, the government, and elected officials. Public opinion polls consistently reflect this disaffection, as job approval ratings for the President, Congress, State governments, and State officials are often below fifty percent, sometimes hovering as low as only one-third, and even dropping into the twenties. It does not take a lot to recognize this malaise as a direct consequence of the deterioration of the political climate in America.

During the past couple of decades, American politics have taken a turn for the worse. The partisan battles of the past have given way to overt partisan warfare. American political parties have a long history of skirmishes and even pitched battles. But, in the times of Speaker Sam Rayburn, at the end of the day, combatants often sat down together, had a drink or five, and patched up the day's wounds.

The Bipartisan Bridge
Even President Reagan and Speaker O’Neill frequently finished tough days of wrangling with a drink and a story. It was accepted that each faction was just doing its job, as if to say that it was just business, not personal.

Today, it is personal. The combatants are more entrenched, more ideological, and more beholden to extremist support groups. Consequently, they are less willing to compromise, less interested in developing positive working relationships, and less oriented toward sacrificing partisan advantage in order to achieve constructive governmental outcomes.

It is arguable whether partisan politics has reached its absolute nadir today, or whether it was even worse at other points in the past. But, academic discussions aside, the current state of affairs is unquestionably bleak, among the most contentious, degenerative, and unproductive in our nation’s history.

We are rapidly sliding down a rabbit hole. If we continue down this path, gridlock and political warfare could be intractable. The intransigence and venom aggravates cultural fragmentation, inhibits prompt effective response to economic and social problems, disenfranchises the electorate, and adversely impacts our international influence, as we appear to speak without a unified voice. As the tensions escalate, the future of effective government is increasingly at risk.

The Bipartisan Bridge

The path of least resistance is to continue hurling our separate ideologies at each other, pounding each other further down into the abyss. But, if we follow that path, at some point, there will not be any collective appetite to restore order, as the animosities will be far too deep-seated, each side having caused the other too much alienation and pain. We would then be doomed to, at best, an ineffective government wherein the party in control at any given time imposes its will on the dissenting, voiceless millions, while reversing the actions of the previous masters. A credo of "it's our turn" should not be an acceptable rationale for non-inclusive governance that swings like a pendulum toward philosophical polar opposites.

The question before us today is whether the partisan antipathy, and the cultural divide that fuels it, is irreversible. That is what this website and "A Political Alchemy to Benefit All Americans: 50 Bipartisan Policy Ideas" are about. In avoidance of that eventuality, they seek to throw a lifeline to all Americans who would prefer a restoration of a collaborative, collegial government. While they were generated by the need to build a bridge between the warring Democrats and Republicans, they apply equally to all those who associate themselves with the multitude of third parties, and to non-partisan independents.

 
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