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Gridlock and frustration

More than two-thirds of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. In all areas. Most feel that the country is still in a recession though many indicators show otherwise. Many are uneasy about our foreign policy, or lack of.

In this unsettled climate will come the mid-term elections which promise to deliver low voter turnout across the nation. There is such disgust with both major political parties that pundits say many independent voters will sit on their hands instead of going to the polls.

Many voters tend to stay home when they are feeling negative about their ballot choices; many feel that it doesn’t matter how they vote because nothing will change. It is at times such as we live in now that all voters need to exercise their right. It doesn’t help anything for citizens not to be involved in the process. Yes, not voting is a vote, but it doesn’t carry the heft of an electoral message.

The country has been fairly evenly divided politically since the late 1990s. Control of one or both houses of Congress switch back and forth between the two parties. The White House moves cyclically between Democrats and Republicans.

Congress has approval ratings less than 15 percent, about a third of President Obama’s approval ratings. In 1948 Harry Truman ran for president against a Do Nothing Congress; that Congress seems like a whirling dervish compared to the lot we have today.

It’s vacation time for Congress which is taking a five-week summer break without addressing several pressing issues including the highway bill that will keep projects going such as the Woodburn interchange construction and money to address the plight of undocumented immigrant children coming into the country from central America. After the August recess Congress will take more time off in September and then most of October to go home to campaign for re-election.

Surveys over the recent years show that while Americans disapprove of Congress’ performance they like their own U.S. Representative.  In other words, kick the other guy’s Congressperson out, but leave mine alone.

The popular definition of crazy—doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, describes the nation’s tendency to re-elect more than 90 percent of our representatives and senators. With a vast majority of Americans feeling the country is on the wrong track, one might be excused for thinking that come November American voters might try a different route. That is very unlikely. Some voters will cast a vote as a protest against the president. Most, though, will vote for the incumbent.

Gridlock has paralyzed Congress. Very little in legislation is being passed, let alone discussed, even though the House has voted more than 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The gridlock is a result of rigid, ideological stands by both parties on just about every issue facing the nation. It’s hard to see how anything of substance gets all the way to the president’s desk for his signature anytime soon.

The American people are frustrated and angry with government which is why Tea Party candidates did well in 2010 and 2012 (though not so much in 2014). Legislation was passed in the days when moderates such as Mark Hatfield and Bob Packwood reached across the aisle to reach consensus. Such efforts these days are considered treasonous to the party. The election of such moderates to Congress is now a rarity and guarantees continued gridlock until one party or the other takes control of both houses.

There is no one defining issue that can unite the country. The unity we felt after the attacks of September 11, 2001 dissapated not long after. We all agreed that invading Afghanistan to go after Osama bin Laden was a good thing, but it was impossible to find consensus on invading Iraq. Americans are past the point of weariness with military actions which is why we are hesitant to act in places like Syria and Ukraine.

Our body politic is split between our views on abortion, women’s reproductive rights, minimum wages, economic inequality, Obamacare…the list goes on. There are too many areas that need solutions but none are forthcoming, not as long as this president and this Congress are in office.

Barack Obama was elected in 2008 with a national sense of change and hope. From the beginning his political rivals moved to make him a one-term president. His own approval ratings are hovering around 40 percent which will probably affect how his party fares in the November mid-terms. Some of his problems are of his own making, but it is hard to govern when your initiatives are stymied at every term. For some the 2016 presidential election cannot come soon enough. But we have Obama for two and a half more years. We have this Congress for six more months.

Americans are hungry for action. It is difficult to live daily life on the edge. Anxiety, tension and stress abound in every part of the country. Income and asset inequality is becoming a larger issue each year; many people are fearful their children will not do better themselves.

Is there a white-hatted hero who can come galloping to America’s rescue in 2016? The United States has produced men and women who have done grand things, people such as George Marshall (Truman’s Secretary of State) who designed and planned the Marshall Plan that saved European countries after World War II. America needs a non-polarizing visionary who can bring the two sides that are far apart on many issues closer to the middle to govern for the best interests of the country. Let’s find one before it’s too late. —LAZ