A Facebook exchange with a friend today brought to mind a missing ingredient in today’s political recipe.
Collegiality is gone. Maybe forever, for all I know … although I hope it makes a comeback.
The exchange was precipitated by a blog I posted about President Reagan’s 11th commandment, which the late president decreed should prohibit Republicans from speaking ill of other Republicans.
My friend responded by saying the blog post reminded him of why he still missed The Gipper. He added that Reagan and the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill, the tough Boston Democrat, liked each other’s company, even though they agreed on virtually nothing.
This all brings to mind some other unusual political friendships on Capitol Hill: Republican Orrin Hatch and Democrat Ted Kennedy; Republican Bob Dole and Democrat Daniel Inouye; Republican Barry Goldwater and Democrat George McGovern; Republican Everett Dirksen and Democrat Lyndon Johnson. (Indeed, the Dirksen-Johnson friendship carried over into LBJ’s presidency.)
Two of those friendships — Dole and Inouye, and Goldwater and McGovern — were forged by common experiences during World War II. Dole and Inouye suffered grievous injury fighting in Europe and spent time in rehab together, where they formed a friendship that would last a lifetime; Goldwater and McGovern both flew combat missions as Army Air Corps pilots and they carried that common bond with them into the Senate.
These are the kinds of relationships we don’t see these days.
What we see instead is a continuation of what then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich once admonished of his Republican troops in the House of Representatives. It was to treat Democrats as the “enemy of normal Americans.”
The enemy? Yes, that was the word he used.
The parties today seem to have carried that outlook well into the 21st century.
It’s shameful in the extreme and it has resulted in the kind of gridlock that stalls the progress of worthwhile legislation. Democrats sought to throw roadblocks in front of Republican President George W. Bush and we’ve seen the payback in the form of even more intense opposition from congressional Republicans who seek to block everything that Democratic President Barack Obama pushes forward.
Each side is pulled away from the center by extremists. “Compromise” has become a four-letter word. Both sides ignore the basis of how legislation is conceived, created and completed.
Remember when Sen. Mitch McConnell declared in 2009 his “main goal” would be to make Barack Obama a “one-term president”?
There you have it. The Age of Collegiality has given way to the Age of Confrontation.
And they call this “good government.” Give me a break.