As we continue in shutdown limbo, it is worth asking whether or not common ground is possible when our representatives are catering to their base as opposed to the country as a whole. Right now, progressives are angry that the Democratic leadership did not keep the shutdown going on the supposition that a protracted shutdown would have resulted in legislation that would protect the Dreamers. Alternatively, partisans on the opposite side are holding firm, at least in the House of Representatives, to the idea that what the Democrats essential want is amnesty and they have no intention of agreeing to that. President Trump has signaled some degree of movement on the path to citizenship for the Dreamers but it is still not clear what concessions he will actually want to agree to a solution.
Trust between the parties is almost nonexistent. Each side feels compelled to adhere to what their base is demanding. While the base on each side may well not represent the majority, it is well known that those who comprise the base are often the most ardent supporters who go out and vote in primaries and with election season soon upon us, representatives are often politicians first and statesmen secondarily. So long as moderate voices are not in the forefront, the base will dominate.
How many of you have heard of the talking stick? We are sure for some this might hearken back to elementary school days circle time when your teacher would give a student an object, such as a stick or small ball that would indicate who could talk and when they could talk, and would be passed around the class to allow for a controlled but constructive speaking environment. During the negotiations to end the shutdown, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), a member of the centrist senatorial group calling themselves the Common Sense Coalition, held meetings in her office and utilized the talking stick which had been a gift to her from Democrat Senator Heidi Heitkamp of South Dakota.
This was a mechanism to ensure that all voices had a chance to be heard. While some of the discussions were heated because even centrists have a base, the use of this tool resulted in everyone present at last making their point known and resolution occurred. Were the bases happy-no. However, moderates put aside their partisanship to some degree and acted less like politicians and more like representatives of the whole.
It is moments like this that we should be encouraging as the norm rather than as an outlier. Yes we send people to Congress to enact legislation about special causes we care about. However, when the bases dominate and moderate voices are drowned out we all potentially lose.
What are your thoughts about the influence that the bases have on our current government? Just how much influence should they have? At what point should the base be ignored in favor of the center?
What talking sticks do you use in your life to make sure that you are heard and that you are listening?
(Photo Credit: WGME.com )