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It's Time to "Stop the Partisan Clashes," Opines Lee Hamilton '52

November 21, 2010

13691November 21, 2010, Greencastle, Ind. — "By splitting control of Congress in the midterm elections, voters have handed Democrats and Republicans an opportunity to work together," begins a newspaper op-ed by veteran statesman and 1952 DePauw University graduate Lee Hamilton. "Of course, the number of people in Washington who believe it will happen could fit in a phone booth, as party leaders tout their refusal to compromise on their core issues and the 2012 elections loom in the distance. Still, as Capitol Hill transitions from campaigning, where the rhetoric gets heated, to the much harder task of governing, there is an opening for reason to take hold."

Hamilton, a Democrat who served 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, offers, "Let's hope that congressional leaders listen to the American people as a whole, rather than simply play to their core constituencies, because the spiraling polarization they're engaging in is clearly turning Americans off. This marks the third election in a row in which voters have rejected the party in power," he points out, adding, "The one message all voters seem to agree on is for politicians to stop the partisan clashes."

Congress, asserts Hamilton, "is supposed to be the place where the diverse voices and needs of Americans, their workplaces, and their communities can all be heard, respected, and taken into account when policy gets made. These days, however, the process either gets manipulated so that significant viewpoints can be elbowed out of the way, or gets so poisonously partisan that no progress at all occurs ... It's worth pointing out that the polarization we've been seeing does not just hurt us at home. Faced with a host of challenges, from the rise of China to negotiating a new arms control agreement with Russia to combating international terror and dealing with North 4726Korea and Iran, our policies need to be consistent and our nation unified. Both of these goals are near-impossible to attain when political leaders are constantly at loggerheads, even though each one knows full well that the country is stronger abroad when it conveys unity."

The man who co-chaired the 9/11 Commission and Iraq Study Group concludes, "Watching all this, Americans are losing faith in their institutions of government. When the people who represent them appear incapable of resolving their differences and moving forward on broadly acceptable solutions to issues that they all agree need addressing -- energy, health care, immigration, reining in spending -- it's no wonder so many Americans mistrust politicians and government. And until our political leaders figure out a way of working cooperatively, they'll deserve that mistrust."

Read the complete essay at the website of Ohio's Hillsboro Times-Gazette.

Lee H. Hamilton is director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. Access another of his recent columns via this article.

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