By SAMUEL MORE-SOBEL
What will 2019 bring?
A question we are all likely pondering as we make our way into 2019.
If, like me, you are an optimist, one cannot help but hope for the best. Even in light of a collectively tumultuous 2018. Yet, I cannot help but wonder. Will 2019 be any different?
The year failed to get off to a promising start. As millions of Americans rang in the New Year by singing rousing renditions of “Auld Lang Syne,” a partial government shutdown remained in effect. The reasons for the shutdown remained unclear, even as it dragged on past Christmas into the New Year.
Both sides were quick to blame the other. Democrats blamed the President for his insistence on securing funding for his oft-referenced border wall, while Republicans cast Democrats as the party unwilling to seek a viable compromise. Such words obscure the reality. All entrenched parties are culpable for the government partially shuttering its doors.
Utilizing the government shutdown as a tactic to achieve swift policy change has proven to be a losing battle. Others have used this strategy to no avail. The shutdowns occurring in the mid-nineties seemingly secured more support for a President once viewed as beatable by the opposing party, in light of the 1994 midterm results. All this to say that the American people as a whole typically refrain from congratulating the party that interferes with the livelihoods of government employees and their families.
This partial shutdown affects nearly 800,000 employees, who are either furloughed or working without pay. While little urgency to strike a deal was exhibited by lawmakers on Capitol Hill in the waning days of 2018, others were forced to grapple with the consequences. What provisions were in place for families living paycheck to paycheck? A dark cloud likely hung over their holiday season, as furloughed employees weighed looming financial decisions. When did it become acceptable in the United States of America for innocent bystanders to become collateral damage in a war of political posturing?
Such a scene is reminiscent of a conversation President George Herbert Walker Bush once had with then-Congressmen Newt Gingrich and Vin Weber in 1989. “I’m worried that sometimes your idealism will get in the way of what I think is sound governance,” Bush said, as recorded in Jon Meacham’s “The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush.” A scene serving as a preamble to our current political climate. An allegiance to political party over compromise. “The old politics of the possible was being replaced by the politics of purity,” Meacham wrote.
There is plenty of blame to cast about concerning our current political climate. Social media, cable news shows, and money in politics all play a supporting role. Yet at the end of the day, the American people are responsible for sending elected representatives to Washington. Through the ballot box, we have it in our power to vote for candidates willing to compromise instead of those wedded to party orthodoxy. To refrain from villainizing the other side, in favor of engaging in the exchange of carefully crafted ideas. After all, isn’t this what most Americans say they want?
The turbulence of 2018 may very well follow us into the next year. But it doesn’t have to. We can collectively choose to embark upon a different path. To strengthen the social institutions that de Tocqueville once lauded in the 1830’s as setting America apart. To invest in our neighborhoods, communities, and local government. To call and write our elected officials in Washington, and make our displeasure known regarding the current state of affairs. To vote when the time comes, and even to run for office ourselves. While doing all we can to help realize the promise of America that has been present since the very founding of this great nation.
Despite the near constant coverage of this partial government shutdown, we all know that the urgency and anger inherent in the moment will likely fade. In the coming weeks, the government will be reopened, likely by voting on a stopgap measure that will simply “kick the can down the road,” as it were. There will be displays of anger replete with plenty of pontification from leaders on both sides; however, a sense of order will finally be restored. Until the next crisis appears, throwing our democracy once again into a state of forced self-reflection.
Here’s to hoping 2019 brings a desire to root out the more troubling aspects of our democracy, along with the restoration of a sense of levelheadedness. A desire to present solutions to the long-term issues facing our nation, instead of applying a band-aid to a gaping wound. While no one will be fully pleased with the results forged, perhaps that is exactly the point. For, when will we learn the value of reasoned compromise?
Samuel Moore-Sobel is a syndicated columnist. To read more of his work, visit www.holdingontohopetoday.com