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Category Archives: Congress

The Art of Compromise

Compromises. There is so much in the world that we have to compromise on – such as the show we watch on T.V. and especially our opinion. While we all understand the importance of making compromises, we can empathize with others when they choose not to compromise for we have often felt the same urge. An example of our not wanting to compromise is found in our childhood. Do you remember those play- dates with a classmate in Kindergarten when you insisted that your Barbie drives the Mustang instead of the Miata although your friend insisted the same car?  I remember that in order to solve this conflict, one would have to compromise. Because I was the guest, my friend was made to compromise by her parents and allow my Barbie to drive the Mustang. If she protested about compromising with me, her parents would threaten her with the end of a play- date and a potential time-out in her room.  Although we did not appreciate learning the art of compromise at this age, it is a lesson we have come to value as we have matured and grown to realize the critical role it plays in our daily lives.

However, some Americans seemed to have forgotten this childhood lesson of compromise. For example, because of the controversial debate over “The Affordable Care Act”, which both the Democrats and Republicans have strong opinions, there has been no action taken to agree on legislation needed to keep our National Government open. Thus, Americans have been outraged because of Congress’ lack of ability to compromise, which has resulted in a shutdown of our Federal Government. In fact, one could even call their refusal to compromise with one another an act of “political grandstanding” as President Obama calls it – or a tantrum. Yes, ladies and gentlemen! Our Congressional Representatives are throwing a tantrum and they need a time-out: childhood style. Who is going to put Congress in time- out? “We, the People” will put our representatives in Congress in time- out by using our democratic- republic to achieve our goal: the grand re- opening of the Federal Government. In times of American disproval of the actions taken by our government, it is especially important that we take advantage of our civil liberties of freedom of speech and our government system and communicate with our Senators and Representatives. We must share with them our feelings of disappointment and defeat and tell them our views on “The Affordable Care Act” in order for them to best represent us. Due to our government structure, if our elected officials do not represent us in our democratic- republic, then we can elect someone that will actually represent our voices in this nation. We must emphasize the importance of our government re-opening because a closed government sends a message to the world: that we are too divided to reach our goals. We, as Americans, know that this message is not the truth at all for we are strong people united in making our democratic- republic the “city upon a hill” it was intended to be. Therefore it is crucial that we require Congress to compromise in order to re- open our federal government.

 

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Democratic Party? Republican Party? I prefer to identify with the pizza party…

Whenever people at my school hear that I’m interested in politics, the first question they ask is “Are you a Democrat, or a Republican?” I tend to dislike this question for a number of reasons. First, either answer comes with a host of implications and people automatically assume you associate with all of the beliefs of the party. If you are to say you are a Republican, you may even face significant bias at my school, situated in primarily liberal Los Angeles. No one even thinks for a second about the dozens of other political parties, like the Libertarian or Green parties.

Throughout America’s history, there have generally been two major political parties, with a few exceptions. It began with the Federalists and Anti-Federalists; then it was the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, the Democrats and the Whigs, up to the modern day where our country is obviously split between Republicans and Democrats. One difference is that in the past, while tensions between parties were high, compromise happened more often. After all, our entire Constitution was built on a series of compromises (Three-fifths Compromise, Connecticut Compromise, the electoral college, etc.)

Over the weekend, I went to a debate tournament and participated in a format called “extemporaneous speaking” (extemp for short) for the first time, in which you go into a room and draw three topics out of a box. You then pick one and have thirty minutes (without internet!) to write a seven minute speech about it. For my first round, the topic I picked was something along the lines of “Now that the 2012 election is approaching, what should the Republicans do in preparation for 2016?” My speech, though consisting of many components, focused partially on the importance of compromise to make sure the system continues to function as it should, laws are passed, and the Republican party isn’t painted as unnecessarily stubborn and reluctant to pass laws that could potentially benefit the entire nation. I got first place for that round. Political compromise sounds appealing on paper, yet these days it rarely seems to happen.

Barack Obama has tried to pass numerous pieces of legislation, only to be outvoted or filibustered by the Republican House majority (I have graphics showing representation of House and Senate in a slideshow at the bottom of the page!) There wasn’t a single Republican vote on Obamacare, even after many attempts to appeal to Republican Congresspeople. There is a group of Tea Party Republicans who refuse to vote for any legislation that proposes any tax whatsoever, regardless of the predicted benefit. Of course, it is not only Republicans who don’t compromise, I only use these examples because naturally, since we currently have a Republican House majority and a Democratic president, clash is bound to happen. This development is honestly quite alarming, for a number of reasons, the most important being that legislation isn’t being passed to make progress in the country and it signals further division between the two parties. If two parties can’t work together… can a country’s government really function at all?

A government must have compromise to function and actually get anything done that appeals to the majority of the country, so this current system could be very detrimental. The question that this begs is… how do we stop that from happening? The simplest solution would be to force legislators to compromise, but it is very difficult to manipulate human beings’ minds, and this would likely lead to them being replaced by their party with another legislator who appeals more to the core of the party. What we need instead is structural solutions; huge cultural shifts that are nearly impossible to start. I’ve said it enough times to sound like a broken record, but I think the first step is abolishing the electoral college. This would allow other smaller parties to become more prominent and help people see the broader spectrum of views than just the Democratic and Republican parties. What else can we do? It’s hard to say, but it’s imperative that this country learns to compromise before it filibusters its way into a political standstill.

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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Congress, Culture

 

The Importance of Congress

According to James Q. Wilson, “If you are like most Americans, you trust the Supreme Court, respect the presidency (whether or not you like the president), and dislike Congress (even if you like your own member of Congress).  We see the members of Congress as broken, the ones never able to come to a compromise, and the ones constantly wasting money, time, resources, and energy. None of us can deny that Americans are constantly blaming Congress for every hardship our country is forced to endure, from economic troubles, to the deficit, Congress receives the brunt of everything.  It is almost as though Congress has become our country’s scapegoat, when we do not know whom else to blame. We all also fear that Congress has become corrupt, and the representatives are only in it for their own benefits.

But why is Congress the group that we blame the most? Is it because Senators and Representatives are the closest things to us, our only links to Washington, or is it actually because our country’s downfalls are due to their mistakes?  It may be that all of our problems are because of Congress, or it may just be that the actions of Congress are made more known than the actions of the President or Supreme Court.

Through my readings, I have come to realize that Congress may be much more important to our country than any of us believes. I have also come to understand that maybe Congress should not be blamed for as much as it has been, and should receive more credit than it has been given.

In this week’s unit, we have participated in modules and watched videos focused on informing us on Congress’ role in our everyday lives. From the videos I learned just how much time and energy Congressmen and women put into all that they do. They truly do have their constituents’ best interests at heart, in every decision they make. When we believe that Congressmen and women are just arguing, they are actually doing their best to please every person that makes up the American population. Although it may take a while, they are dedicated to discovering compromises. I also saw how dedicated they are to bettering their communities. From the modules I learned that Congress has an effect on the medication we take, water and milk we drink, clothes we wear, and the roads on which we drive. Before participating in these modules, I never realized how much of an effect Congressmen and women have on my everyday life, on the little things that make up my day.

I have learned that there is much more to understand about Congress than what meets the eye. Congress is not just made up of Republicans and Democrats in constant argument; in fact, it is an extremely complex system, more so than I ever understood. Congress is made up of numerous subcommittees focused on taking many different opinions, ideas, and beliefs, putting them together, and forming ways to better our country.

Maybe Congress actually does need to do a much better job, or maybe they could just use a bit of motivation or support from the American people. Everyone needs to be reminded just how much Congress does for each and every one of us. We all fail to appreciate the hard work that the representatives put in to better their communities. However, we must all remember just how important Congress is to not only our country as a whole, but also to every individual life. Next time you begin to blame Congressmen, ask yourself,  “Would I be drinking this clean water if it weren’t for them?”

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2012 in Congress