Skip to main content

It’s time for an intervention

10/16/2013 02:25PM, Published by ACL, Categories: In Print, Opinion



By Lee H. Hamilton

The American public has lost patience with Washington. The question is, now what?

Congress is unable to do its job. It displays neither competence nor responsibility. It lurches — reeling from crisis to crisis, each one self-manufactured in an effort to postpone the reckoning from some earlier crisis. It shut the government down over a temporary budget. Now it’s threatening the financial credibility of the U.S. government and the security and safety of the American people. Three years of last-minute spending decisions have culminated in a television standoff with no actual negotiations.

Too many members of Congress reject the notion that accommodation and time-honored procedures allow them to fulfill their responsibilities to the American people. They use their legislative skill to engage in brinksmanship rather than address the country’s fundamental problems. Economic growth? Creating jobs? Putting the federal budget on a sustainable path? Don’t look to Congress. They’re too busy coming up with the next short-term tactic to confront the other side. Every day they dither, they keep the government from addressing the nation’s real problems.

Even worse, they’ve managed to raise real questions in this country and abroad about whether our system of government can work. Are we saddled with a national legislature paralyzed by unending conflict? Are we capable of tackling our major problems? We are on the road to a government that cannot plan, a country shackled by perpetual uncertainty, and a loss of faith in our institutions both at home and abroad.

We do not have to continue down that road, but we do have to confront a core problem. The political center in Congress has weakened to the point of ineffectiveness, if not near-irrelevance.

That’s fine with some people in Washington, who are comfortable with gridlock and don’t think its consequences will be dire. Our government’s inability to deal with problems, they argue, is good — a government that’s able to act, they believe, creates more problems than it solves.

Likewise, some people acknowledge polarization as a problem, but blame it on an electorate that prefers a divided government, split between the parties. All I can say is that divided government in the past — think Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill — didn’t keep Congress from creatively addressing national challenges. Divided government is not easy, but it is not unusual and it can work.

Politicians don’t deserve all the blame. Voters share responsibility: more people have to turn out to vote. The more people who vote, the better the chances to strengthen the political center — that is, moderates and pragmatists. That’s because low turnout brings out the most ideologically intense voters, who in turn reward the most polarizing candidates. A Congress more representative of the American people rests on expanding efforts to convince people to vote, and beating back the barriers to voting.

The second solution lies with members of Congress. Contemplating a government shutdown, a Kentucky congressman recently explained his stance by saying, “All that really matters is what my district wants.” This is not an uncommon view, but it’s a distressingly limited one. Our system depends on members who believe it’s also their responsibility to lead and inform voters, who are willing to weigh the national interest as well as parochial concerns and who have confidence in our system to resolve political differences.

In other words, we need members of Congress devoted to making the system work. We need men and women in office who understand that when the voters give us a divided government, they have no choice but to accept the distribution of power and work with it, regardless of what they wish were the case. We need legislators who realize that those on the other side feel just as passionately and deserve their respect, and who are committed to finding a solution to our problems.

We change laws in our democracy and solve our most difficult issues in this country not by bringing government to a halt, but by fighting out the issues before the voters in an election.  At the end of the day, we have to move the country forward — and we need to elect members of Congress who are willing and able to do that.

 

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.


Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Chester County's free newsletter to catch every headline



congress lee hamilton


You might also like

Time to act on energy security

Possible pipeline to be built between America and Canada for oil.

Still lots of waste

IRS parody costs taxpayers millions of dollars.

  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    09/07/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/09/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Warm Season Grass Walk

    09/10/2015
    09:00AM — 12:00PM

    By creating a yard with vegetation that offers food and cover, you can create a refuge for severa...


  • Little Music Makers

    09/10/2015
    11:00AM — 11:30AM

    Every Thursday at the USTC, come Jam Out with… Little Music Makers …a mommy and me music class ...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    09/10/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • 64th Brandywine Open House and Kickoff

    09/10/2015
    06:30PM — 08:00PM

    The 64th Brandywine Scouts of the Baden-Powell Service Association (BPSA) will hold their annual ...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • The Chester Springs Studio wood kiln is a two chamber noborigama, constructed in 2014 during a wo...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • The Chester Springs Studio wood kiln is a two chamber noborigama, constructed in 2014 during a wo...


  • Steamin’ Day at Auburn Heights

    09/06/2015
    12:30PM — 04:30PM

    Join the Marshall Steam Museum for Steamin' Day, a fun-filled day celebrating local history and l...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    09/06/2015
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Taste Kennett Food Tours, creators of memorable, unique and fun food experiences, offer three-hou...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    09/07/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Bird Walks At Middle Run

    09/08/2015
    08:00AM — 10:00AM

    Free! Every Autumn, more than 30 species of warblers pass through this county park and birders ...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/09/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Warm Season Grass Walk

    09/10/2015
    09:00AM — 12:00PM

    By creating a yard with vegetation that offers food and cover, you can create a refuge for severa...


  • Little Music Makers

    09/10/2015
    11:00AM — 11:30AM

    Every Thursday at the USTC, come Jam Out with… Little Music Makers …a mommy and me music class ...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    09/10/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • 64th Brandywine Open House and Kickoff

    09/10/2015
    06:30PM — 08:00PM

    The 64th Brandywine Scouts of the Baden-Powell Service Association (BPSA) will hold their annual ...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Glen Willow Combined Driving Event

    09/11/2015
    08:00AM — 05:00PM

    Come enjoy the excitement, spectacle and thrills of carriage driving at the Glen Willow Combined ...


  • Parents Night Out: Marsh Monarchs

    09/11/2015
    06:30PM — 08:30AM

    Parent's Night Out: Set mom and dad loose to have dinner along Wilmington's Riverfront while you ...


  • Parents Night Out: Marsh Monarchs

    09/11/2015
    06:30PM — 08:30PM

    Parent's Night Out: Set mom and dad loose to have dinner along Wilmington's Riverfront while you ...


  • Mysterious Moths

    09/11/2015
    08:15PM — 10:00PM

    Join insect expert, Alyssa Molin-Graves, and TLC to explore the interesting and mysterious lives ...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Monarchs And More

    09/12/2015
    09:30AM — 11:00AM

    The amazing Monarch and other butterflies are busy in the meadow! With net in hand, search for th...


  • Monarchs And More

    09/12/2015
    09:30AM — 11:00AM

    The amazing Monarch and other butterflies are busy in the meadow! With net in hand, search for ...


  • The Chester Springs Studio wood kiln is a two chamber noborigama, constructed in 2014 during a wo...


  • Second Saturdays

    09/12/2015
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Join us on the Second Saturday of each month for special programming in our native plant gardens....


  • Secret Gardens of West Chester

    09/12/2015
    10:00AM — 03:00PM

    Now in its eleventh year, Barclay Friends is hosting an exclusive walking tour of 14+ private gar...


  • Trees of Newlin Nature Walk

    09/12/2015
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Discover the unique trees of Newlin on this walk that explores big trees, old trees, rare trees, ...


  • Mattress Sale Fundraiser

    09/12/2015
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    High Quality Mattresses at great prices and for a great cause!


  • Explore a loose and contemporary approach to Spontaneous Plein Air Painting. Workshop with Georga...


  • Food Truck Festival

    09/12/2015
    12:00PM — 05:00PM

    Calling all Foodies!!! Join us on Saturday, September 12th from 12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. for a Food...


  • Victory for the Headwaters

    09/12/2015
    12:00PM — 08:00PM

    Victory Brewing Company (Victory) will host Victory for the Headwaters, a daylong celebration and...


  • Hootenanny Hoedown

    09/12/2015
    05:30PM

    Our 4th annual Hootenanny features a fantastic list of conservation minded partiers, delicious fo...


  • Sweet Sweet Music

    09/12/2015
    07:00PM

    An Evening of Fabulous Entertainment and Sweet Indulgence in a Landmark Venue to Benefit Chester ...


  • Milburn Orchards Grandparents Weekend Festival

    09/12/2015
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Grandparents get in FREE when accompanied by their grandchildren! Fall Festivals include unlimit...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • The Chester Springs Studio wood kiln is a two chamber noborigama, constructed in 2014 during a wo...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    09/13/2015
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Taste Kennett Food Tours, creators of memorable, unique and fun food experiences, offer three-hou...


  • Milburn Orchards Grandparents Weekend Festival

    09/13/2015
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Grandparents get in FREE when accompanied by their grandchildren! Fall Festivals include unlimit...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Join us for a golf outing at Broad Run Golfer's Club. Event proceeds help to prevent and end fam...


  • Ready to Read

    09/14/2015
    10:30AM — 11:00PM

    Join our storyteller for book readings, songs, rhymes and crafts. From Monday, September 14 - Mo...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/14/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • Meet & Greet Dharma

    09/14/2015
    05:00PM — 06:00PM

    Meet Dharma, a sweet German Shepard that is super smart! All are invited to meet her (without ap...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    09/14/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Bird Walks At Middle Run

    09/15/2015
    08:00AM — 10:00AM

    Free! Every Autumn, more than 30 species of warblers pass through this county park and birders ...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/15/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • Meet & Greet Lizzy

    09/15/2015
    05:00PM — 06:00PM

    Meet Lizzy, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi show dog champion! She is affectionate, smart and works at th...


  • Kids Book Club

    09/15/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Read or listen to a book of your choice and join us to talk about it with the group. Bring a fri...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/16/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • Where Good Sleep Begins Workshop

    09/16/2015
    06:30PM — 08:30PM

    Banish Bedtime & Naptime Battles with The Sleep Lady's Gentle Method. Every parent knows getti...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Little Music Makers

    09/17/2015
    11:00AM — 11:30AM

    Every Thursday at the USTC, come Jam Out with… Little Music Makers …a mommy and me music class ...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    09/17/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • Teen Book Club

    09/17/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Read or listen to a book of your choice and join us to talk about it with the group. Bring a fri...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Eye Spy In The Forest

    09/18/2015
    09:30AM — 11:00AM

    Let’s play Eye Spy in the forest! Nests, toads, salamanders, mushrooms, leaf piles …what will w...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Thresholds of Chester County Seeks Volunteers

    09/19/2015
    08:30AM — 04:00PM

    Thresholds of Chester County is a nonprofit organization that teaches decision making tactics to ...


  • Walk for Life

    09/19/2015
    09:00AM — 11:30AM

    Join us for a day at the park! Enjoy a 2.5 mile walk through the lovely Anson B. Nixon park in Ke...


  • The Chester Springs Studio wood kiln is a two chamber noborigama, constructed in 2014 during a wo...


  • Free! Monarch Migration Celebration

    09/19/2015
    12:00PM — 04:00PM

    Celebrate one of nature's wonders…the great Monarch butterfly migration! Encounter live butterf...


  • Farm to Fork

    09/19/2015
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    This year’s Farm to Fork highlights the abundance of the season while honoring the important role...


  • Share a piece of Johnny Appleseed's Birthday cake, then pose and take pictures with the birthday ...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • The Chester Springs Studio wood kiln is a two chamber noborigama, constructed in 2014 during a wo...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    09/20/2015
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Taste Kennett Food Tours, creators of memorable, unique and fun food experiences, offer three-hou...


  • Catch a ride on Coverdale’s hay wagon for a fun fall hayride through the preserve. Hop off at a...


  • Butterflies At Bucktoe

    09/20/2015
    02:00PM — 04:00PM

    Explore the beautifuln Bucktoe Creek Preserve in search of Monarchs, Swallowtails, and Fritillari...


  • Come join Lee Peterson, author of “Peterson’s Field Guide to Wild Edible Plants of Eastern/Centra...


  • Share a piece of Johnny Appleseed's Birthday cake, then pose and take pictures with the birthday ...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Ready to Read

    09/21/2015
    10:30AM — 11:00PM

    Join our storyteller for book readings, songs, rhymes and crafts. From Monday, September 14 - Mo...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/21/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    09/21/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Bird Walks At Middle Run

    09/22/2015
    08:00AM — 10:00AM

    Free! Every Autumn, more than 30 species of warblers pass through this county park and birders ...


  • Backyard Explorers

    09/22/2015
    10:30AM

    Tuesday, September 22 at 10:30 AM, Ages 3 – 5, registration required. There’s so much to discove...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/22/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Green By Nature Preschool: Coolest Creatures

    09/23/2015
    09:30AM — 11:00AM

    They can climb walls, lift 500 times their own weight, fly thousands of miles - even though the...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/23/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • Autumn Equinox Hike & Campfire

    09/23/2015
    06:00PM — 07:30PM

    Welcome the coming of autumn! We will head to the Hawk Watch to scan the skies for soaring rapt...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Little Music Makers

    09/24/2015
    11:00AM — 11:30AM

    Every Thursday at the USTC, come Jam Out with… Little Music Makers …a mommy and me music class ...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    09/24/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Moonlit Stream Stroll

    09/25/2015
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Adults it's your turn to stroll along the White Clay Creek with Director Bern Sweeney Ph.D., as y...


Chester County High School Sports