Amash misses deeper problem afflicting Congress: unwillingness to compromise
© Greg Nash

The withdrawal of Michigan Rep. Justin Amash from the Republican Party has drawn a fair amount of attention and commentary. As a member of the Michigan congressional delegation, his decision does not surprise me and I agree with a portion of his reasoning.  

Bitter partisanship has become the norm at all levels and is destructive to both addressing challenges facing our nation - and to basic civility in our day-to-day lives. Word or actions undertaken with contempt receive contempt in return. Anyone that doubts this premise has not seen social media or 24-hour news channels in several years. 

However, Rep. Amash’s attribution of the issue to simply allegiance to a political party is a shallow description of the problem. I believe Rep. Amash is one of a number of members of Congress — both Republican and Democrat — that subscribe to the motto, “It’s my way or the highway.” Effectively legislating requires compromise, and as we have seen recently there are vocal minorities on both sides of the aisle in Congress that decry and vote against legislation with broad bipartisan support if they do not get 100 percent of what they demand. 

It’s easy to vote “no” and complain, but if we are going to address our nation’s most pressing issues like infrastructure, immigration, mounting debt and more, we will need to work together and craft solutions that actually move the ball forward. To move past the gridlock, members of Congress must make a concerted effort to work with not only members of their own party, but across the aisle.

Another cause of the problem in our government is that some members of the political class, at all levels, play nearly exclusively to what they see as their “base.” Pollsters and political consultants craft well-tested brief talking points to engage core supporters and, hopefully, sufficient numbers of unaligned voters to secure election or reelection. Once elected to office, those politicians secure a small slice of power; however, only some of them have given adequate thought to effective policy solutions beyond their talking points. 

If only I could count the number of times consultants or pollsters have said, “Don’t get too deep into details, because you will lose the attention of many voters.” I have worked to provide specific policy positions on my website and congressional social media accounts and will strive to be even more specific. Similarly, our nation requires inquisitive voters that seek out and consider policy statements and plans that go beyond talking points. I desperately urge the readers to move beyond social media, review source information, and consider diverse policy positions that may challenge their assumptions or beliefs. In my opinion, our representative democracy requires this to be healthy. 

The complex challenges facing our nation requires not only an understanding and commitment to our Constitution, but also well considered policy positions and a willingness to craft compromises on policy. The U.S House of Representatives is a reflection of the diverse perspectives and priorities of the American people. Addressing the many needs of our nation requires engagement with a broad spectrum of members rather than saying, “It’s my way or the highway.”

Mitchell represents Michigan’s 10th District.