facade of aged historic cathedral under colorful sky at sunset

It’s Toddlertime-Again

Forgive my excursion into the always contentious waters of politics, but it’s Toddlertime again in Washington DC, as the government is poised to shut down this weekend unless legislators come through at the last minute. Sadly, this is just another episode in the long running series of immaturity and ineptitude that is our Congress. 

Who’s to blame for this? Ultimately, it’s all of us. To explain, I’ve reposted below an article I first wrote for my local newspaper several years ago. It also appears on my personal blog. Although the details have all changed, the issues remain. If you’d like to humor me, please read on.

The confirmation process for potential Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has everyone talking lately and with good reason. There’s a lot on display, much of it disturbing. Not to be overlooked in the “Bothersome Department” is a recent interview given to 60 Minutes by Republican Senator Jeff Flake.

In it, interviewer Scott Pelley mentioned that Flake is not seeking re-election at the end of his term. (Flake broke party lines and cooperated with Democratic Senator Chris Coons in calling for the FBI to investigate Dr. Ford’s sexual assault claims against Kavanaugh.) Pelley asked if Flake would have been able to reach out to Coons if he was not retiring.  Flakes response? “Absolutely not.” he said. “There just isn’t any value, currency or incentive in reaching across the aisle anymore”. 

And that statement represents our country’s biggest problem. Our Congressional leaders find no value in compromising with each other. Is that their fault? Maybe. They know that comprising often brings the wrath of their own party. Maybe it’s our fault because too many of us think of politics as a blood-sport. A death match against arch rivals. Have we elected die-hard partisans to office because they were the only ones on the ballot? Or do we demand partisanship in the candidates we vote for? 

Whatever the reason- we need to fix it. We should know from our own experiences in school, work and community, that complicated problems are best solved by collaboration. Rarely is one person’s thinking so ideal and complete that one head proves better than two. Collaboration builds community. It values everybody’s input and perspective. 

How did we get to this place? I’m not sure, but fixing it has to start with us. Each of us needs to look in the mirror and re-evaluate our own attitudes about politics and what we value in our representatives. 

As a kid, I remember hearing my uncle complain about something he saw on the news, where Congressmen admitted to the interviewer that they would routinely head to their favorite bar after a contentious debate. My uncle was mad about it. He wondered how in the world these feuding senators could so easily hang out together and be friends after such a heated argument. “Slime balls.” he called them, accusing them of being in “the government club” together. 

My uncle was on to something though. Those senators really were in the government club together. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. My uncle’s senators had relationships with others across the aisle. They were “allowed” and encouraged to build bridges and compromises. It was seen as a sign of strength, not weakness. Did everybody love the results? Not always. Was everything perfect? Certainly not. But the approach was often one of cooperation, not domination. Of all of us, not me verses you.  Of seeking the best result, not just winning. 

The change back to those approaches has to start with us. We need to apply these concepts to our own interactions with each other, political and otherwise. We need to talk to each other with the same character we expect to see from our political leaders. Over time we will see a change in the type of people running for office. They will have learned, from our culture’s example, how to act and interact. They will know that compromise is valued and that cooperation yields best results. They will understand that the voters demand those traits in their leaders.

How do we start? First, let’s all calm down. Outrage is today’s most overvalued commodity. Second, let’s talk about issues again with our friends, neighbors and relatives who disagree with us. It will be uncomfortable at first. But we must relearn how to communicate with respect, honesty, and a desire to understand rather than inform. Third, let’s work to maintain our relationships and build community in all things. Hopefully, at some point our culture will mature. And as a result, so will our leaders.

Follow us here at www.wiseandshinezine.com for more articles. More of Todd’s pieces are available at www.fiveoclockshadow.life. To keep up with Todd’s musical activity visit www.toddfulginiti.com

25 thoughts on “It’s Toddlertime-Again

  1. It is a sad state of affairs in this country. The art of debate and compromise are dead. As a general rule, when someone looking to be elected says “I’ll fight for you” I immediately add them to the list of people I will never vote for.

      1. The current group of children in office are a national embarrassment. They don’t scare me as much as the fact that they were voted into office!

  2. Todd I agree with you completely on a personal level. From a political viewpoint I don’t see how it would work. Having been active in local politics and involved in national politics here in the UK for the majority of my adult life I see too much tribalism. There are some good eggs here who want to do as you suggest and there have been minor inroads to do just that eg. one political party not standing in a by-election in order to keep another party out. It doesn’t happen often enough though and the public are mightily offended by one party or another and would raise their wrath at negotiation. During important discussions over Brexit compromise between parties thinking along similar lines was turned down. Shame!

    1. Ah- interesting point about Brexit! I agree it might be too idealistic to expect, but I can’t help but to hope for it anyway. I served a term on my town borough council and the thing that made that so special, in my mind, was that the entire council, regardless of party, was focused on taking care of the town business and solving it’s problems. Maybe that’s easier to achieve in a small town where the consequences of ineptitude are more immediate? 🤷🏼‍♂️

      1. Yes! I saw that in our local towns and it’s inspiring to see as you say. If only this mindset would grow … I suppose so long as people like us push it forward, there is hope. 🤞🏼

  3. A beautifully written post, Todd. It seems to me that now that we aren’t operating from the same set of facts anymore, we’ve lost so much ground to even start the conversation. Your point about collaboration building community is so good! Yes, we have to do that day in and day out in our lives in order to make a difference – we need to elect representatives that will do the same. And amen about outrage – hope my comment didn’t stoke up any! 🙂

    1. Haha- thanks Wynne! I hear you- I was a little nervous to post this, even though I think it’s pretty non-inflammatory 😅

  4. I am not an expert of US politics but I read about it from time to time. I don’t know if this can be related to your post but here is the title of what I read yesterday on the British newspaper The Guardian, that I support: How a shutdown would leave America’s national parks unprotected, which I found very serious, considering the current climate emergency. I totally agree with you when you say that we must relearn how to communicate with respect, honesty, and a desire to understand rather than inform. I would change inform into “think to be always on the right side”. I quote Bertolt Brecht “We sat on the wrong side, because all the other seats were occupied.” It seems to me that nowadays we should more and more sit on the wrong side.

    1. I love that quote! It’s true- unprotected parks would be one of the consequences of a shut down. Thanks for commenting Cristiana!

  5. Todd, Todd, Todd, common sense, collaboration, calling for calm discussion . . . tsk, tsk, tsk, we can’t have this. C’mon on where’s the finger pointing? Where’s the anger? Where’s the taking sides? Ha, ha, I very much agree with you. It’s really sad that we’re in this state, especially sad because it’s our own undoing. I feel like we’ve lost the concept of country over party, state, etc. There’s no compromise, no focus on the areas where they may actually be some agreement. Excellent post!!!

    1. 😁😁😁 I know – what was I thinking?! I can be so naïve…..😁
      You’re right – it really is our own undoing. Thanks for reading Brian!

  6. I once interviewed a Norwegian politician for my blog and asked him about collaboration with the total opposite parties and he said exactly what you are pointing out. It is better to meet the opposite parties and collaborate on the cases they can agree around. I like your view. Thanks for the post.

    1. Thanks Parisa! I’d be interested to read that interview- please send a link if you don’t mind 🙏

      1. Ohhh, it is a video interview done in Norwegian without any subtitles, unfortunately.

Leave a Reply