By Tim Hayes
Could things actually be starting to change in Washington? Has the confluence of Daylight Savings Time, the first crocus buds pushing up through the ground, and baseball spring training, combined to melt those frozen hearts at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue?
Dare we dream that our representatives in Congress and the President have begun to realize that their role is to serve all Americans, not just those in the same political party, and not just those who agree with them all the time?
Two events over the past week offered this slim glimmer of hope, this tiny crack of the door opening, this momentary peek of sunlight through the peephole. The first came on Wednesday, as Sen. Rand Paul spoke for nearly 13 hours, filibustering against the use of drones on American soil. The second came the following day, when President Obama had dinner with a number of Republican Senators to talk about ending the budget sequester, even footing the bill himself.
Why do these instances represent a hopeful view? Because they demonstrate a passion for ideas, a willingness to break free of artificial restraints, and a recognition that the only way to avoid and solve problems is through communicating clearly with each other.
Paul’s filibuster has been labeled by some as a publicity stunt, by others as an inflamed cry to abide by the principles of the U.S. Constitution. Either way, it got the desired result. Following the filibuster, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a letter stating that drone strikes would not be used on American soil.
The President’s dinner with his across-the-aisle counterparts, similarly got characterized by some as him acknowledging a political reality that Americans are weary of gridlock and intransigence on either side, and by others as a sincere gesture of goodwill and dialogue to solve a national problem.
The GOP Senators emerged from the private restaurant venue talking about the positive start the dinner discussion represented, and how they and the President both want to get this budgetary kerfuffle behind us. Word is that Obama has proposed additional talks while breaking bread over more lunches and dinners in the next few days.
The fact that these occurrences made news, unfortunately, says so much about the polarized level of political discourse that we have endured for far too long. Politics has always been a blood sport; I’m not naïve enough to think otherwise. As Jack Kennedy once quipped, “If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog.” But at least in years gone by, civil servants with differing viewpoints could still be civil with each other.
Wouldn’t it be great if people in power forgot about their personal power and concentrated more on the power of the ideal they have the privilege of carrying on, carrying forward? If they could actually believe in, and act upon, the ideal described by Jefferson Smith, the fictional character played by Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” as he conducts his own filibuster, pleading with his fellow Senators:
“Just get up off the ground, that’s all I ask. Get up there with that lady that’s up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won’t just see scenery; you’ll see the whole parade of what Man’s carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so’s he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That’s what you’d see…Great principles don’t get lost once they come to light. They’re right here; you just have to see them again!”
And it starts with stopping the stonewalling, and communicating in an open and honest debate. We have too many important issues in this country for the D.C. demagogues on both sides of the aisle to do anything less. We’re watching, so get to it, you guys.
Copyright 2013 Tim Hayes Communications