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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Civil discourse needed in Capitol

    We’ve discovered what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object: The government shuts down. Vital services stop and the public’s confidence in those responsible with ending the madness reaches all-time lows. According to Gallup, only 11 percent of Americans approve of how Congress is handling its job.

    A memo sent to faculty by the Office of University Relations stated, “there is little indication of a near-term resolution due to the circumstances that have caused the shutdown.”

    Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Shay Stautz is currently in Washington D.C. providing updates to University officials. Currently the shutdown has not had an effect on University operations, but this could change if a compromise isn’t reached soon.

    Progress has been stifled by harsh and hyperbolic rhetoric perpetrated by both Democrats and Republicans. The need for compromise and civil discourse has never been higher; the latest bout of brinkmanship can have harsh ramifications on our economy if we cannot identify a way to raise the debt ceiling. We must demand civility from our elected officials, in spite of their differing political beliefs.

    Jane Prescott-Smith, Managing Director for The National Institute for Civil Discourse located at the UA, said she believes that political compromise, however rare in this Congress, is attainable.

    Prescott-Smith cited the relationship between former President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill as a symbol of compromise despite differing beliefs. At a going away party for former Speaker O’Neill, President Reagan said, “Mr. Speaker, I’m grateful you have permitted me in the past and I hope in the future that singular honor – the honor of calling you my friend.”
    Could anybody imagine President Obama saying this of Speaker Boehner?

    Currently, our political discourse is littered with hyperbolic statements that do nothing to end the shutdown or protect the American public.

    “I think for every atrocity said by a member of one party, you can match it with one from a member of the other party,” said Prescott-Smith. “I think it’s on both sides of the aisle and I think it’s extremely unhelpful.”

    Rep. John Fleming, R-LA, offered a great example of this paralyzing language when he said, “Obamacare is the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress.” Any American with even a sub-par knowledge of history can think of a few pieces of legislation whose implications were far more detrimental to our society. Between Jim Crow, the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII and voter identification laws that are sweeping state legislatures, there are plenty examples to choose from.

    On a similar note, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a speech, “We will not bow to tea party anarchists who refuse to accept the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare be constitutional.” To label members of the Tea Party movement as “anarchists” is irresponsible and untrue.

    Congress keeps pointing fingers, though; they continue bad-mouthing those who hold different political ideas. But what does this accomplish? The 113th Congress has been one of the least productive in history in terms of passing legislation and the most polarized in recent years, according to Prescott-Smith.

    How can we force an end to this polarization that has paralyzed our nation? Prescott-Smith said the answer lies with constituents calling their members of Congress to hold them accountable. “One of the great things about our country is that the ultimate power is in the hands of the people, and we have to have our voices heard…Citizens need to speak up.”

    This is an opportunity for millennials to take their place in the political sphere by flooding the offices of their representatives with calls for compromise. Young people, who are voting in larger numbers than in the past, should let their elected officials know that gridlock is not an acceptable way to govern, and insulting language is no way to speak to opposition.

    Anthony Carli is a political science senior. Follow him @acarli10.

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