Loss of moderates is damaging Congress

There is rarely any mention that this exodus already happened in the House in 2010 – albeit mostly involuntary – and the resulting gridlock should serve as a warning. Scores of Blue Dogs and moderate Republicans either resigned or lost their elections when the Tea Party took power. This extremism has absolutely devastated the day-to-day operations of the House. With a great many more moderate retirements already announced in 2012, I don’t see any improvement on the horizon.
 

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The situation is made worse by the “seniority system.” The most senior members with the safest (most partisan) districts stay the longest, gain the most clout, and become chairmen and leaders. The result is that the partisan skew is magnified. As Congress continues down this ever-increasing path of hyper-partisanship, the pressure on and frustration among sitting moderate members steadily increases until we choose to retire.
 
There are serious “real world” consequences for the lack of moderates in government, too. Businesses are getting caught up in a vicious tug of war between regulation-happy liberals and live-free-or-die conservatives. The other day I spoke briefly to a group of CEO’s from across the country. One of their biggest complaints was that it takes too long to get anything done these days. I could not agree more. Trivial regulation is clogging America’s economic arteries, stymieing our “can-do” spirit that made this country great. During World War II, a time of great crisis, the Pentagon was built in 18 months. Today, the environmental permits for the parking lots alone would take 10 years.
 
But that doesn’t mean our government should scrap every safeguard and always say "yes." Our leaders have a duty to protect the public interest, and not every project or program should get approval. In those cases, a swift NO is much more desirable for all concerned than death by a thousand paper cuts or, more correctly, being crushed by reams of environmental documents. Sensible moderates are needed to balance competing interests, so the pendulum of regulation doesn’t swing too far in either direction.
 
We need a change of heart in how legislating is done.  Leaders – and the voters who elect them – need to recognize that “compromise” isn’t a four-letter word. The purpose of legislating isn’t to grandstand – it is to work out differences and find commonality that is in the best interest of our country.
 
Members of Congress from both parties must take responsibility for getting things done, or our representative democracy will fail. 

Rep. Cardoza (D-Calif.) is stepping down at the end of his current term.

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