After Obama win, how civility can come to Washington (+video)
After the election last night, President Obama and Mitt Romney rightly spoke of the need to reach out to the other side. But today's political divisiveness has been decades in the making and will take decades to undo. Here's how that can happen. It starts with citizens.
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Both chambers would also have to provide equal numbers of seats to each party on the Rules Committee, ensuring that the procedures governing bills are agreeable to each side.Skip to next paragraph
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Bringing civility and deliberation to Washington also requires reigning in the culture of accusation for political gain and re-instilling a greater sense of institutional fealty. To break the Democrats’ 40-year control of the House, Republican backbenchers like Newt Gingrich and Vin Weber used ethics accusations in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a way to disrupt the majority’s legislative agenda and discredit its leaders. Both parties have since embraced the tactic. Shifting ethics issues to an independent commission would break the cycle.
Before members take the oath to defend the constitution, many have already signed a binding partisan pledge, like Grover Norquist’s vow never to raise taxes, that puts them in a policy box. Banning external pledges would help build more loyalty to the constitutional responsibilities of public office.
One more reform would help purify the waters of legislating: prohibiting former members and staff from lobbying Congress for six years after leaving Capitol Hill.
None of these reforms will come easily. They require bending the will of parties seeking a monopoly on power through centralization, bullying, rules violations, and electoral games. Change will hinge on the precept that there is no civility without deliberation, and without deliberation democracy founders. A more constructive dialogue in government requires regular meetings between the president and congressional leadership, a return to Ronald Reagan’s rule that politics ends at 6 p.m., and greater allegiance to the institutions and branches of government among the people who serve them.
But none of this will be possible without the people’s resolve to reclaim the ideal of self-government. Only they can “take back the government” through citizen initiatives, a rejection of partisan attack, a more discerning consumption of information, and an abiding demand that the neighbors they call to represent them serve their constituents before their party.