Can They Rise To The Occasion?

Have you ever noticed how stellar the Founding Fathers were? You know, the guys who wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and those who penned the Constitution in 1787. Familiar names like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin and several dozen more.


Despite their outstanding accomplishments, the Fathers were not a homogeneous group. Their powdered wigs and buckled shoes overlaid a divisive passion. They had greatly divergent views of a proper political system and their heated disagreements elevated verbal savagery to an art form. They were, after all, committed revolutionaries with very strong opinions.


Still, notwithstanding spirited disputes, they produced two shining examples of governance, documents that have allowed us to grow both as a People and as individuals for well over two hundred years. As if to underscore what working together means, the Declaration was negotiated in a mere two days. The Constitution took a bit longer, but they got it done in less than four months.


Imagine the politicians of today pulling that off. We can’t, really, because it would never happen. Soaring partisan rancor in the past decade, but particularly in the most recent six years, shows no sign of faltering. By comparison to the current crop in our nation’s capital, the Originals belong in the pantheon of the gods.


Why were the Founding Fathers so much better at getting down to business than our leaders today? We have to hope that the important distinction is merely atmosphere, not attitude. Politicians now days allow special interests to defocus them from national concerns. Their party leaders successfully polarize them into extreme camps simply, it seems, for the sake of disagreement. Relationships across the aisle are so strained that the Senate dining room, once the site of conviviality among those holding differing views, is mostly empty.


Making partisanship even more ingrained is the national election trend in recent years. Moderates are disappearing from the political landscape because American voters are increasingly dissimilar in their political beliefs. As well, districting in the House has created “safe” zones dominated by one party or the other, guaranteeing polarization in Washington for the foreseeable future.


So partisanship is here to stay for quite a while. But, it was around in the 18th Century, too, and was set aside then as the need arose. The question today is whether our partisan leaders can occasionally rise to the occasion, overcome their differences and act for the good of the nation. Or will they be the ever-shrinking runts of politics ensconced in the pantheon of the ridiculous?


Does it matter? After all, we already have our founding documents. Yes, it matters. It matters if we really want to fix the deficit that threatens our way of life. It matters if we want a fair, lasting solution to the immigration mess flooding our southern border. It matters if we want to handle the ISIS crisis, and foreign relations in general, effectively.


Right now, our best hope is that the silver lining of bipartisanship around the ISIS threat has an enduring glow. At least when it counts.


Another mystery surrounding the Founding Fathers is why their very large committees were so successful in meeting critical objectives. Anything by committee these days is viewed as pretty much of a joke. If it’s a Congressional committee, it’s hilarious.


But, that’s a topic for another blog.