Opinion: Bill Clinton’s call for bipartisan cooperation worth heeding

Although Bill Clinton certainly did not speak for the majority of the Democrats at their recent national convention, the former president made the most important and needed observations of any of the speechmakers in Charlotte, N.C.

He pointed out that our problems as a nation are so deep and complex that neither party has the wherewithal to solve them, or for that matter even effectively address them on their own.

The issues we confront deal with the fundamentals of how we manage a massive demographic shift that is overwhelming an entitlement system — especially in healthcare reimbursement — that was built for another time and place.

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The issues are deeply personal to everyone in this nation: making Social Security solvent over its actuarial life; bringing healthcare costs to a level where they do not absorb 20 percent of GDP; and reforming the tax laws so they produce more revenues through more economic activity and lower rates.

Because they affect everyone in this nation in a very personal way, it is impossible for one party to impose solutions that are unilateral and dogmatic.

One of the lessons apparent from the debacle of ObamaCare is that when one party uses its parliamentary advantage to essentially shut out the other party’s input on crucial and significant issues of public policies, it creates an immediate backlash.  

People simply will not accept having big issues that affect them done in an excessively partisan way.

They simply do not trust that partisan decisions represent a balanced approach, where everyone’s concerns get some degree of reasonable input.   

President Clinton’s point at the Democratic convention in Charlotte was that he worked with Republicans on some difficult issues like welfare reform and balancing the budget — and that is why he was successful.   

It should not have been necessary to also say that the country benefitted from this success.

That should be an obvious point, given that this is the way that all successful presidents have proceeded – including Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

We do not live in a parliamentary world where the issues of governance — because of the dominance of the majority over the minority — swing wildly to the left and the right.  

We are governed under the principals of checks and balances. These were designed by Randolph and Madison with the intention that our government, more often than not, is one of consensus where the views of the minority are integrated into the final resolutions, not excluded from them. 

It is a governing process where the American people have confidence that their government is not acting hastily, but is rather giving everyone a fair shot to have input on the action to be taken.

President Clinton’s message was roundly ignored, and not just by Democrats. Most of those who attended the Republican convention did not even watch his speech on television, preferring the Giants/Cowboys game.

But his point was correctly stated and should have been taken as constructive counsel to those who would govern. 

The issues we confront will not be resolved by the policies put forth in party platforms that are filled with the polemics of folks who wish to shout from the corners of the American field of play.   

They will be resolved by leaders who are willing to sit down with their counterparts and — without compromising their core values or purposes — work out agreements that move our nation forward. That way, the American people can have confidence in responsible government, especially on matters of fiscal solvency.  

The bases of both parties have their historical heroes. Bill Clinton on the left, and Ronald Reagan on the right, are two of the most noteworthy.    

These presidents understood that governing under the American system meant inclusion, not exclusion, and that to get something done one needs to be able to work with others, even those in the other party.

Judd Gregg is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Foreign Operations. He also is an international adviser to Goldman Sachs.