As the partial shutdown of the federal government entered its 23rd day, the sad state of American politics was plainly visible. It reverberated through Washington and across the country as news outlets sought to escalate outrage among their audiences by blaming one side or the other. Pundits aplenty opined that one side or the other was “losing” in a “must-win political battle” for supremacy in America’s capital. Politicians, most of whom have never seen a minute of military service in their lives, let alone actual armed conflict, consistently resorted to martial language to describe their positions and goals, demeaning the service of thousands of Americans who have sacrificed lives and bodies defending our country.
Overseas, American allies and partners undoubtedly look on in dismay, pondering the political madness that seems to have infected the American polity and wondering if it might be both long lasting and detrimental to their national interests. Meanwhile, China, Iran, Russia, and a number of terrorist organizations are smiling broadly. Some of them are enthusiastically stirring the pot.
Every politician in Washington should be held accountable for this sorry state of affairs. The lives of hundreds of thousands of average Americans, who have spent years resolutely serving the country and its citizens, have been needlessly upended to feed our elected leaders’ inflated, insatiable egos. While many government employees are sufficiently well-off to weather this foolishness, some are not. However, they will eventually get paid, whether they worked through this nonsensical kabuki play or were furloughed. Unfortunately, the many more federal contract employees who have also been sent home will not be paid, unless Congress specifically instructs agencies to do so. For federal contract employees, this shutdown could be a financial disaster.
At the heart of the problem is a political class, both Democrat and Republican, that has decided to put the pursuit of political power ahead of service to the country. They have forgotten that our government was designed to work on the basis of compromise, not partisanship. Indeed, the very checks and balances built into the Constitution were included to ensure that partisan government was virtually impossible.
The compromise on the table is simple. Fund border security enhancements and programs as part of a continuing resolution to reopen the federal government for operations. Such a deal would put thousands to work and tens of thousands more back to work. Somehow, our leaders in Washington have forgotten that their jobs are to put Americans to work, not the reverse.
Compromise now is important, because until the leaders of the current Congress learn how to compromise, no legislation will pass for the next two years, and the government will inevitably stumble from continuing resolution vote to the next. Acrimony and outrage will only escalate, as both parties blame each other for their collective failures. Violent civil unrest may follow – exactly the conditions that our allies and partners fear, and our competitors and adversaries are hoping to exacerbate and exploit.
It takes vision and courage to lead a complex society to the necessary compromises that sustain a healthy polity. While both seem in short supply in Washington, we can all hope that someone will soon don a pair of new glasses and step forward to guide us out of this mess. It’s time to end this farce. COMPROMISE!