“There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead Armadillos” — Jim Hightower
Sometimes I think our politics is broken. Everybody agrees that we have serious economic and social problems we need to solve, but almost no one seems able to offer solutions that seem credible to those on the other side of a great philosophical divide about the role of government.
Our financial elites have been reckless, our governments have been unserious about spending, taxes and immigration, and many people — including some of our neighbors — are seriously hurting. Families are being stressed to the breaking point, and we seem unable to do anything to change the dynamic in a positive way.
Too often, our legislatures pass laws that do not get to the fundamental causes or even set the stage for an open discussion of what those causes are and how we might be able to address them successfully. As soon as someone proposes an approach, it is immediately denounced as unacceptable by those who are not predisposed to agree with it. It is as though our politics have room for two poles of thought and none for the middle.
A working definition of insanity is the insistence on doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting a different result. We don’t need more people in office who tell us that the solution to our problems can be found on either the right or the left. Even if they could get the votes to pass legislation, as a people we are sufficiently divided that either extreme is unlikely to prevail long enough to work its will.
We need people who are willing to spend the time to understand the problems that underlie our challenges, articulate approaches to solving them that people can understand, and work toward finding compromises that are sustainable beyond the immediate issue. Such politicians are likely to be vilified by both sides, derided as unworthy of support by stalwart members of their party, and mocked as insufficiently dedicated to the “true belief” to be considered for leadership.
What a crock — and what foolishness! Those who seek compromise, encourage the search for common ground, and accept that real progress only happens incrementally are the only leaders who can help us find a way out of this mess we’re in.
There are no perfect solutions — but that doesn’t mean we can’t solve the problems that face us. We just need to start acting like adults who are willing to compromise for the greater good rather than prevail over those who disagree with us.
In the next few months we will be hearing from candidates of all stripes who will be asking us to believe that electing them is the best thing we can do to create a better tomorrow. In almost every case we know it’s not true and they know it’s not true. The one missing characteristic that will really get us closer to where we need to be is humility — because from there grows a recognition that none of us have all the right answers.