What’s the opposite of normalcy?

The past 2 weeks were marked by hard work, compromises, time constraints, and when it was finally over a sense of accomplishment…and that was just my law school final exams.  Can you imagine what President Obama feels like?

The interesting thing about bipartisanship and “deal-making,” for lack of a better term, is that it doesn’t feel the same as winning.  Even though I would argue that its more productive and healthier than “winning” (at least in the political sense).  The American people and most of our politicians want to read about national politics and feel the same way we do when we’re watching The West Wing.  As with many areas of real life, we expect the Aaron Sorkin version of politics.

I’ve been wondering lately if the resistance in Washington to Obama’s efforts is built more on an “idealized right vs. wrong” mentality or simply a commitment to drama.   Members of Congress seem to only know how to play the game one way.  I would argue that President Obama is shifting expectations and it took two years to sink in.

But according to an editorial in the New York Times, don’t expect it to last:

“Next term, there will be many more Republicans in Congress spoiling for a fight, and the White House will have to be far more pugnacious and adept to preserve its priorities and avoid trickery and extortion. But this week’s examples of Democrats and Republicans coming together for a common purpose will not soon be forgotten. As the president said on Wednesday, if that continues, “we are not doomed to endless gridlock.”

What I find interesting is that whether or not this series of “lame-duck compromises” will be considered a success or even beneficial.  Clearly the Obama Administration is claiming victory.  Rightly so.  If Republicans find these legislative advances positive, it is a sign of what can be accomplished through compromise and working together.  However, if newly elected Republicans/Tea Partiers do not see the value and benefit in working together, the 112th Congress will return to exactly where Senator Mitch McConnell wants it – partisan and petty.

My opinion is that trial-and-error public policy or incremental advances is better than nothing.  Some want stability even at the expense of government activity.  Not me.  I prefer a President and politicians that “mix it up” to find workable solutions to our country’s problems.  Is anything the government has ever done perfect? Hardly.  But that’s no different than anyone else doing his or her job every day.  Let me tell you, that I worked hard in college, harder still when I entered the working world and neither of those compare to the experience of law school. Yet, none of it has been near perfect.  It’s complex and difficult, but I do my best.

Why is government any different?

There is no perfect balance between tax cuts and entitlement spending.  No immigration legislation will address the concerns of everyone, settle our differences and implement a practical solution.  That’s asking too much.  But we still need to try.

Congress and the President need to use the past few weeks as the starting line for what is possible.  Incremental advantages, workable solutions and compromise.  It doesn’t feel warm and fuzzy but if it works, we need it.  And trial and error at least has the ball rolling in the right direction.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, you can’t lose 50 pounds on the first day of a new exercise program and you cannot win the yearly sales bonus on Monday, January 3.   Just because we need to hold public servants and politicians to a higher standard doesn’t mean that we hold them to totally unrealistic expectations.

I applaud President Obama’s approach.  He attacks an issue, tries to find a reasonable compromise and pressures Congress to pass something, even if it’s not perfect.  Even when a reasonable compromise with Republicans or moderates is not possible, the message is there and the intent is there.  I hope this is his new game plan going forward and that Congress is paying attention.  Americans respond to action.  We understand hard work.

Even if all President Obama’s efforts or ideas are not perfect, I think his support with the American people will continue to grow because he took action.

The past few weeks have been anything but normal in Congress.  My question is what does the next Congress hold? A return to normalcy or something new and, dare I say, better?


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