OTHER VOICES

We hope and demand our leaders act

Posted Nov. 07, 2012, at 1:26 p.m.

Sun Journal, Lewsiston (Nov. 7)

Explaining how he got involved in politics, Maine’s newly elected U.S. senator left us with a telling quote when he visited our offices several weeks ago.

“I like people, I like ideas and I like getting things done,” former Gov. Angus King told the Sun Journal’s editorial board.

While we are certain King alone cannot change Washington, we wish his philosophy was shared by more elected leaders.

Our nation faces a daunting list of challenges, from a slow-growing economy to a frightening national debt to broken health care and educational systems.

But the ideas and new approaches are out there, if only our president and Congress are willing to think more creatively and daringly than they have during the past four years.

Like King, they should be compelled by this love of country and its people, not by their blind loyalty to special-interest politics and allegiance to the most angry and rigid ideologues on the political extremes.

And they must be compelled by the burning desire and urgency of getting things done … and soon.

The first test will come immediately, as the lame-duck Congress is forced to deal with the ominous “fiscal cliff” before the first of the year.

There is no time left for gridlock or kicking the can down the road.

Without quick and decisive action, American families will suddenly find themselves paying much higher taxes, and government will be forced to enact large, automatic cuts to our military and social services.

If the newly elected president and Congress heard anything during the campaign from the large majority of Americans, it was of a burning desire for them to work together and make rational compromises to move our nation off dead center.

The last Congress may have been the most unproductive in history. For the U.S. Senate, it was one break and vacation, while failing to solve a single meaningful problem.

The misguided belief shared by both parties was to wait until after the Nov. 6 election in hopes of sweeping the election and forcing their entire agenda upon their vanquished foes.

Well, the American people have chosen, instead, to continue the status quo of divided government, and wisely so.

In a closely divided nation, the best ideas and programs — and importantly, the most widely supported — will be those that emerge from compromise.

But a willingness to give and take has been entirely absent for the past four years and perhaps even longer.

That cannot be blamed entirely on President Barack Obama, although he showed a frustrating incapacity to gain the trust of or to work productively with his Republican adversaries in Congress.

Meanwhile, Republicans clearly employed the politics of obstruction during the past year, more content to block progress than to enact policies conservatives have traditionally favored, all to deny the president even the appearance of success.

It has been a paralyzingly destructive year. Our country has marked time as many of our problems have only worsened.

But circumstances have changed. Now both parties and their leaders must be willing to put aside their absolutes.

A very good starting point would be to return to the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The commission proposed a broad range of pain for all, including a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts designed to put our fiscal house in order.

Anyone who says that could be done without sacrifice, by simply taxing the rich or without tax increases, is, bluntly, delusional.

The election is over, and this is always a time of great hope and expectation.

But hope and expectation are not a plan. As Americans, we must demand more — much more — of the leaders we have now elected.

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