“When I began in politics, elected officials believed that compromise and negotiation were core political values, intrinsic to our democracy and crucial to making it work for everyone.”
Our representative democracy is in stress, if not in peril. We must return to our traditional approach: coalition-building across diverse groups of people.
Holding the president and other public officials accountable is not a detour from governing; it is the essence of good government.
Many of our policy challenges are intractable, impossible to solve. The best we can do is manage them, chipping away year by year.
It’s very easy for political elites to overstate the degree to which ideological categories actually apply to real people.
As I think back on effective legislators I have known, I’m struck by their sense of obligation to the country; their palpable commitment to doing the right thing; their deep respect for the office of the presidency; and their insistence that the president display equal respect for the Congress.
It’s rarer than you’d think to find an elected official who is adept at both politics and legislating.
Politicians in Washington talk about climate change in general, but we haven’t seen any concerted consensus-building effort to deal with it.
Many state and local governments, disappointed by gridlock and dysfunction at the federal level, are finding ways to improve life for their citizens. And citizens of all sorts are plunging into politics and community issues with vigor.
Winning power by keeping people away from the polls is a perversion of what democracy is about.
Patriotism can be found everywhere in our communities, among all kinds of people who pursue their lives with the good of the country at heart.
If our public officials cannot rise above division and gridlock and negotiate to get things done, then citizens will lose faith in government, and representative democracy will not work.
Voting is crucial, but there are five other essentials to making our representative democracy work:Transparency, accountability, cooperation, honesty and pragmatism.
Bold, decisive, thoughtful leadership is essential. But ultimately, our success as a nation depends on the strength and capabilities of our citizens. The Founders spoke often of the need for citizens of virtue and talent, for people capable of governing themselves.
Major policy disagreements may not be easily resolved, but they do yield to discussion that is carried on rationally and with civility and respect.
We have much to be proud of in our record as a nation. But it’s not written in the stars that we will continue to make progress; our policy-makers need to do their jobs.
I cringe when I hear a member of either party express hatred or accuse the other party of disloyalty. Both want the best for their country — even if they have different ideas about what “best” means.
We must ensure that people who vote are entitled to do so. But representative democracy is strengthened by expanded voting; we should do everything we can to lift voter turnout, not suppress it.
We must always be alert to the fact that our freedoms and rights can be eroded. To prevent this erosion, we have to step up to the task of responsible citizenship.
Our system depends on citizens making discriminating choices on politicians and issues. You want to educate yourself, which includes talking with people whose opinions differ from yours. The world is complex, even at the neighborhood level, and to be effective we need to understand it.
The Founders established a government that has the capacity to reform and renew itself, because its institutions rest on the political involvement of our citizens. To its core, our republic rejects autocratic political leadership and authoritarianism.
Leaders of this frustratingly unproductive Congress must let the full House and Senate work their wills on issues of most concern to Americans.
Politics is our vehicle for reconciling the tensions, diversity and differences among us that are bound to arise as we tackle enormously difficult challenges.
Journalists must give citizens the solid, accurate and fair information they need to make good judgments about politicians and policy. And citizens need to conscientiously follow reliable, fact-oriented media — not just a single source, either, because none has a monopoly on the truth.
Washington politicians give lip service to debt and deficit reduction, but for the most part, each party is trying to blame the other. A problem of this duration, severity and complexity is not going to be solved without a bipartisan approach.
Americans disagree with one another on all kinds of issues. We need to accept and tolerate those differences, because we are far stronger when we seek to reconcile them rather than ignore or exacerbate them.