By Dale Glading
I took a brief respite from Fox News the other day because I wanted to see what the mainstream media said about Rush Limbaugh’s passing. And so, against my better judgment, I tuned into the CBS Evening News with Nora O’Donnell.
The coverage of Rush’s death was fairly straightforward, although they could have refrained from calling him “popular but polarizing.” Then again, what should I expect from the network that gave us Dan “forged documents” Rather or the medium that gave us Brian “my helicopter was shot down” Williams? Rush told the unvarnished truth as he perceived it and, as Mark Twain famously said, “Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it.”
As soon as O’Donnell finished her cursory piece about Rush, she segued to one about Ashley “I am a nasty woman” Judd, who broke her leg while hiking in the Congo. Why that story was considered newsworthy, I don’t know, but it was actually the broadcast’s final segment that caught my attention.
Apparently, a group of conservatives from Kentucky traveled by bus to “bluer than blue” Massachusetts to seek common ground with some liberals there. Although they had to “agree to disagree” on most issues, they somehow managed to do so amicably. Remarkably, they also found a few things that they saw eye to eye on.
That got me to thinking…
What commonalities do most Americans share – regardless of their political leanings and affiliations – that we could use as building blocks to forge better communication and closer cooperation? More unity and less division. More harmony and less hostility.
I may be an idealist and an eternal optimist, but I am not naïve. And so, my list is purposely short, and my bar is set embarrassingly low. But maybe, just maybe, it could lead to thawing the political cold war that has descended on Washington D.C. in recent years.
Here’s to trying, anyway:
Infrastructure: Most Americans would agree that the United States needs a bit of an infrastructure facelift. Like so many of the home makeover shows that my wife loves to watch on HGTV, we have grown a little dated and worn around the edges. But instead of simply remodeling our kitchen or upgrading our master bedroom to include an en suite, America desperately needs newer roads, bridges, airports, and mass transit systems.
If Dwight Eisenhower could get Congress to approve his 48,440-mile Interstate Highway System in 1956, maybe Joe Biden can get them to work together to construct something that every American would benefit from for generations to come. Democrats want high-speed rail and more electric charging stations while Republicans want a national high-speed wireless internet network amongst other priorities. Let’s give them both what they want… and create millions of new, good-paying jobs in the process.
Education: Oil, natural gas, and coal are essential to our nation’s financial wellbeing and energy independence, but America’s most precious natural resource is our children. So, why are we keeping them trapped in failing schools, utilizing outdated textbooks and other substandard teaching tools? For that matter, why are educators – arguably the most influential professionals in the entire country – paid less than they are worth?
Since the NEA has the unfettered ear of the Democratic Party, the Republicans should offer an across-the-board bonus and/or pay hike to all educators in exchange for them signing onto School Choice. Maybe even throw in some limited student loan forgiveness for teachers who stay in their chosen profession for at least 10 years.
Wrap the package up in a nice legislative bow, call it the American Mandate for Education Reform (AMEN), and be sure to enlist the support of black Americans, the vast majority of whom support School Choice.
Healthcare: Like it or not, some version of Obamacare is here to stay. Most Americans like it… or at least parts of it, such as the covering of pre-existing conditions. And political history has proven over and over again that once citizens receive a perceived benefit, they are extremely reluctant to give it back.
So, get rid of the individual mandate (permanently), put an end to surprise billings, and find a way to cut prescription drug prices. The only people who oppose the latter is Big Pharma, and they represent a lot fewer votes than seniors. And yes, allow people to keep their doctors by developing a public/private partnership instead of pushing Medicare for all – which would bankrupt the country in short order.
The Environment: Call me crazy, but I think the Grand Old Party and the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party can agree on one, two, or even three environmental issues. No, we are not going to demolish every building in America that is more than 10 years old in order to erect money-guzzling monuments to the Green New Deal. And no, we are not waving goodbye to coal, oil, or natural gas production… with or without fracking.
However, no one wants to breathe dirty air or to drink contaminated water, so let’s channel our inner Richard Nixon and commit to leaving our planet in better shape than we found it. For those with short memories – or who despise him so much they purposely choose to omit some of his presidential accomplishments – Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act in 1969 and the National Environmental Protection Act in 1970. Even his harshest critics will grudgingly admit that Nixon’s administration compiled an unprecedented environmental record, signing laws designed to curb air, water, and pesticide pollution; regulate ocean dumping; and protect coastal areas and marine mammals.
Remember, too, that Teddy Roosevelt, a big game hunter, also explored unchartered parts of the Amazon River, where a tributary still bears his name. TR also established the U.S. Forest Service along with 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments through the 1906 American Antiquities Act. During his presidency, Roosevelt is credited with protecting approximately 230 million acres of public land… and he was a Republican… so it can be done.
Federal Term Limits: If there is one issue that virtually every American outside the Washington Beltway agrees on, it is this. People on both sides of the political aisle – except for those in the halls of Congress – see this as a no-brainer.
Please don’t lecture me (or them) with the lame argument that we already have term limits via the ballot box. Thanks to the power of incumbency, gerrymandering, franking privileges, and special interest dollars filling congressional coffers faster than you can say Steve Scalise ($37,262,827); Kevin McCarthy ($27,780,644); Nancy Pelosi ($27,359,508); Devin Nunes ($26,825,212); or AOC ($20,664,795); it is almost impossible to unseat a member of Congress. That is why 95% of incumbents won re-election in 2020, despite Congress’s approval rating hovering between 15% and 25%.
In fact, OpenSecrets.org writes that, “Few things in life are more predictable than the chances of an incumbent member of the U.S. House of Representatives winning re-election” due to “wide name recognition and usually an insurmountable advantage in campaign cash.”
Of course, there is no way a term limit bill makes its way through the 117th Congress unless we throw a bone to all the incumbents. And so, I propose a 12-year maximum tenure in either House (two 6-year Senate terms or six 2-year House terms) up to a 24-year total, but sitting Senators and Congressmen are exempt. Although it’s not ideal, adopting a grandfather clause may finally “get ‘er done.”
That means no more John Dingells (59 years, 21 days); or Robert Byrds (57 years, 176 days). It also means a not-so-fond farewell to Patrick Leahy, who has called the U.S. Senate his home since 1975; and Charles Grassley, who has done likewise since 1981. Finally, it means that there will never be another Don Young, who is currently serving his 25th term in the House.
You may not agree with every item on my short list and regardless, I encourage you to come up with your own Top 5. However, the main point is that those of us on the right need to take a few cautious baby steps towards those on the left and vice versa. Never compromise on principles; but be willing to negotiate deals where nobody gets everything, but everybody gets something.
That’s called governing.
Dale Glading is an ordained minister and former N.J. Republican candidate for Congress.