America, let’s meet in the middle for a change

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Is this any way to run a country, or a corner deli for that matter?

Every four or eight years a new president changes — or tries to — virtually everything his predecessor did. A visitor from Mars would wonder how that other guy got into the White House in the first place. He must have been a cat burglar.

What we have here, my fellow Americans, is boomerang polity, a throw-out-the-baby-with-the-bathwater government. Bill Clinton trumps Bush I. Bush II trumps Clinton. Obama trumps Bush II. And Trump trumps Obama.

 Before long, when more than half of us are thoroughly worn out by a leader whose name is a verb, President Yin-Yang (or Cuomo) will trump Trump. Count on it. 

What makes these national mood swings more astounding is that our bipolar, mandate-wielding changers-in-chief often are not the choice of even 50 percent of the voters, much less of the electorate. Two in five eligible Americans did not go to the polls in November (I agree, shame on them).

Bill Clinton won a three-man race in 1992 with but 43 percent of the votes cast. Trump was the choice of only 46.1 percent of the voters, and as he assumed office his approval rating was more than 10 points below that of the departing president, whose legacy apparently needs to be power-washed from the face of the earth.

So it’s time for a change, is it? A radical change? Up is down, down is up? One wonders why Trump’s minions aren’t going about our nation’s capital buck-naked. Obama, et. al., came to work fully clothed, after all.

It is the nature of political parties, of course, not to give the opposition credit where credit is due. But lately, our two civic cliques have devolved further to the point where cooperation is anathema. When the photo of a senator with the president, who happens to be from the opposing party, can be used against her in a future primary spat, our democracy has sunk pretty low, indeed. It’s as if these people are still in junior high.

The Republicans perfected scorched-earth polity during the past eight years, and time will tell if the Democrats follow suit under Trump.

I hope they don’t, but rather seek common ground where they can find it. For example, the new president favors infrastructure improvements and pledged during the campaign that he would not touch Social Security or Medicare benefits. Let’s see if his own party agrees with him and the Democrats on those issues (at this writing, it is not clear that Trump agrees with himself on the last two). 

 When both parties place partisanship before pragmatism — and patriotism —as seems to be the trend, you and I will be in big trouble regardless of our ideological leanings. Continued “gotcha politics” has not, and is not going to solve our problems. 

Where else but in our dysfunctional politics do “we the people” assume that we will get everything we want exactly as we want it? Does it work that way at work, even if you’re the boss? Is that how your marriage or personal relationships are trending? Are you right all the time, and therefore have nothing to learn from listening to others who have another point of view?

So how do we extricate ourselves from this angry quagmire and avoid quadrennial or octennial whiplash? Why don’t you and I start leaning back toward the center, where we Americans have had the most success in the past.

Let’s talk to one another — in our grownup voices — and push for pragmatic solutions that may not fire up our respective bases, but will actually improve things.

Coming together won’t be easy. Our leaders are perfectly fine with the current sound and fury, road-rage politics. They purposely have pushed us apart by demonizing the opposition and gerrymandering safe congressional districts where one party or the other dominates. It makes it easier to carve up the turkey that way.

Well, it’s time for “we the turkeys” to push back. We may not agree on everything, you and I, but we don’t disagree on everything, either. We should expect nothing less from our esteemed representatives: they should meet in the middle and get stuff done or take their hard-earned government pensions and scurry back to the private sector.

David Holahan is a freelance writer living in East Haddam.

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