Skipping the agitation cycle

There are things we can all do to seek change in a civil way

Late last week, angry truckers were planning to clog up the Washington, D.C., Beltway, while fuming military veterans planned an assault on closed D.C. memorials.

Meanwhile, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last week showed a whopping 60 percent of Americans would replace the entire 535 members of Congress if they could.

Other than the 1960s, it’s hard to remember a time in our lives when this country was as
divided and agitated.

Division, by itself, isn’t unhealthy, as long as it’s along the lines of intellectual disagreement. And the nation really has become more divided intellectually in recent decades, with the growth of conservatism and alternative media. The country might have been more divided years ago if we’d had this many sources of information. But back in the day, with a liberal media cabal controlling all three networks and Democrats controlling Congress, there wasn’t much call for dissension.

Now there is. The trick, though, is how to do division without the agitation.

We’re not doing that so well at this point.

House Republicans ignited much of the current contretemps with their attempt to use the government shutdown to try to make Democrats eat Obamacare whole. While a growing number of Americans would like to pull up a chair and watch that, it wasn’t going to happen. It was a failed strategy.

That GOP gambit – along with the Democrats’ decision in 2009 to pass the Affordable Care Act without any support from Republicans – has divided the nation like never before since the ’60s.

And agitated us.

We wouldn’t propose an end to protest. In certain doses and in prescribed ways, it’s as American as apple pie. But protesting alone won’t get us where we need to go.

Ultimately, cooler heads must prevail. And some folks are already trying that.

You’ll be glad to know a group called No Labels (www.nolabels.org) – formed after the Affordable Care Act was passed on a purely partisan vote – has helped create what is essentially a Problem-Solving Caucus in Congress – 87 members, from both parties, who meet regularly with members of the other party to seek common ground. It’s an organization that our frequent columnist Ed Conant of Savannah has touted.

No Labels has advocated for a great, no-brainer bill withholding the pay for members of Congress when they don’t approve a federal budget. It also supports a package of eight other bills to make government more efficient, such as multi-year budgeting; agency consolidation; video conferencing, to replace half the government’s travel budget and more.

There are things we as individuals can do as well, including:

• keep up with current events and newsmakers; knowledge is power

• keep after your elected officials, and keep them accountable

• get involved and work to get your favorite candidates elected

• don’t encourage the yelling on television; turn it off

• share information with friends, certainly, but don’t get caught up in heated political arguments with acquaintances or strangers; keep it civil

• support government reforms, such as those No Labels is proposing, as well as term limits and spending limits for Congress (see our editorial Oct. 13)

• work hard to be self-reliant, productive and giving

And if there are “bums” in Congress who need to go, remember who put them there – and vow to never do it again.

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