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The great divide: The American people and the partisan American government

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Russia. The Russia Investigation. Jared Kushner. Donald Trump, Jr’s meeting with the Russians. Clinton’s emails. The congressional gridlock. President Trump’s tweets. The seemingly endless repeal and replace cycle of targeting the Affordable Care Act. The ubiquitous and inundating news coverage of it all. These are not issues the average American worries about, especially those Americans who are poor and middle class.

People in my home state of Georgia are concerned about jobs, their children; people in Flint, Mich., still worry about clean water to drink and bathe in; folks on the Southside of Chicago are still concerned about violent deaths in their communities; people across the country are worried about the durability of their insurance coverage. Baby boomers are acutely concerned about their retirement savings. And while the media is simply jumping from scandal to scandal, these are the top issues that are of concern for the majority of Americans. Though some would say it’s not just ‘the media’, which follows; it’s the entire governing establishment – expected to lead, as a whole – that is distracted or creating distractions.

{mosads}The share of Americans who distrust their government is 74 percent, with only 19 percent satisfied with it according to a 2016 Gallup. This tells us that our American leadership is preoccupied with what is not important to the average everyday citizen in America. The American people want solutions, they want alternatives to the current norm. They want to be able to provide for their family, send their children to a decent school, and live according to our liberties and freedoms.

The cynicism and suspicion is compounded with the narrative, among some that President Trump and some members of Congress are spending their days lining their own pockets, and those of their rich acquaintances, yet and unfortunately, the president and allies have done too little to quell this sentiment.

Talk of “draining the swamp” is empty fake-populist rhetoric that makes for easy listening, however every election cycle the “swamp” of Washington produces politicians who govern to the extremes of their political parties – more concerned with political positioning than with needs of the majority of Americans – the silent middle, who de facto may choose a side, while finding no sustaining home in either party.

And that party which Americans entrusted to help change our country has no legislative accomplishment sufficient to account for its control of the House, Senate and White House. This party would have hoped, after seven years of repeal-and-replace rhetoric, to have enacted a coherent progressive, conservative agenda by now. Rather it’s witnessed scandal after scandal (or plausible appearance thereof) by its creation; action delayed on healthcare revision; inflammatory middle of the night tweets; high White House personnel turnover and factional and partisan bickering. Perhaps, the reason why this party is not doing much is because it hasn’t figured out what to do with a titular leader whose Machiavellian concerns focus on self and a small circle of friends.

Democrats and Republicans must, for the sake of our republic, bridge the partisan, extremist gaps by spending some time walking in the shoes of the rhetorical ‘them’ – the American people, as a whole, inclusive of more than their personal constituencies. Mirrored advocacy and representation of specific opinions and sentiments gleaned from constituents is but a portion of the mandate for congressional leadership. In order to govern it is a portion that at times must be sacrificed or attenuated for the good of the whole.

Congress and other political leaders are supposed to speak to us, for us, and on behalf of us. However, most Americans feel that surely no one speaks for them in these times. Instead, we have a government that perpetuates division and allowing limited sets of people to profit handsomely because of it.

To break this great partisan divide between the American people and its government will require a transformation of our party and electoral system. Shall we try electing centrist, independent people to Congress with problem-solving mind-sets and agendas that benefits the majority of Americans? Of course, this would require more non-partisan state primaries and stops on partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts.

Visualize a centrist swing caucus in Congress that potentially denies either party a clear majority and forces change from the center. In dramatic flair, the country was reminded by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) along with moderate Republicans Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski Alaska, as they voted with the Democrats towards the long push to repeal ObamaCare that there is still a “center” in U.S. politics, and that hardliners ignore it frequently, and that eventually it will bring down their plans. Perhaps, this vision is too quixotic, especially for party and ideological loyalists. But I am reminded that the majority of Americans are not “blue” or “red”, but “purple”.

Even so, we can all agree that something must be done to exalt the interests of the American public in politics. Now is the time to restore our democratic republic, lest we forget the words of Thomas Jefferson, “I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

Quardricos Bernard Driskell is a healthcare lobbyist with 10 years of government relations experience. He is adjunct professor of religion and politics at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. Follow him on Twitter@q_driskell4.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Donald Trump John McCain Lisa Murkowski Susan Collins

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