There’s Only One Way to End Gridlock in Washington

As Democrats are in the midst of a presidential primary where candidates and the media are focused on drawing distinctions between their proposed agendas, it is important to keep something in mind. Like it or not, there are only two political parties in the U.S. that will eventually compete for our votes. When it comes to the issues that are of most concern to Americans right now, the gulf between those two parties is incredibly wide.

Health Care

Democrats have a variety of plans, but almost everyone agrees that health care should be a right, not a privilege. That is why they support government intervention to make insurance more affordable and care more accessible.

Republicans remain committed to repealing Obamacare, stripping millions of their insurance, and letting the free market reign when it comes to affordability and accessibility.

Immigration

Democrats support a secure border and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. When it comes to asylum-seekers and legal immigration, they support humane policies that align with this country’s stated values.

Republicans are committed to fear-mongering about immigrants and enacting xenophobic policies—all of which are rooted in racism.

Guns

Democrats support common sense gun safety measures that, based on research, would reduce the toll of 40,000 gun deaths in this country every year.

Republicans have consistently refused to consider any gun safety measures.

Climate Change

Democrats agree that climate change poses the existential crisis of our lifetimes and have various plans to address it.

Republicans generally deny the scientific evidence of climate change and have blocked any measures to address it.

Perhaps even more important than these specific issues is the fact that, other than racist fear-mongering and tax cuts for the wealthy, Republicans don’t really have an agenda. Instead, they have been content to simply block anything Democrats support.

A lot of Americans are disgusted by the stalemate that has consumed our politics for years now. That’s why it is critical to accurately diagnose what is causing the gridlock. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been clear that he likes being called “the grim reaper” and revels in overseeing the legislative body where bills go to die. In other words, he’s willing to brag about Republicans being the cause of gridlock.

Personally, I will never forget that in 2009, when America was careening towards another Great Depression—losing about 800,000 jobs per month—it was Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues who launched their strategy of total obstruction, rallying their troops to oppose anything Democrats attempted to do to address the situation. At the point that Americans needed them the most, they were more interested in making Obama a one-term president than doing their job. That’s why it doesn’t surprise me to see the same party put political power over country in their defense of Donald Trump.

Recently, Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) talked with Chris Hayes about climate change and made a point that we need to hear more often.

He’s right. Mitch McConnell doesn’t care how clever you are or how you frame your message on climate change or any other issue. If we haven’t learned this already, we should know it by now: no matter how strongly the American people disagree with him, McConnell isn’t going to change his mind. In order to maintain power as his party slides into a minority, he’s willing to throw democracy under the bus by breaking the Senate, suppressing the vote, gerrymandering congressional districts, and packing the courts with extremists. That is the political reality we are dealing with right now.

As Schatz said, the only way to make any headway on climate change, or any other issue, is for Democrats to beat Republicans in 2020. He goes on to say that the way to do that is to ensure that all of the young people who are climate activists also become climate voters. We could say the same thing about other issues like gun violence, health care, or immigration. While activism continues beyond an election, it will accomplish nothing if we allow Republicans to maintain gridlock.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.