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A Referendum on Congressional Dysfunction

Yesterday, November 4th we saw a shift back to a Republican majority in the Senate in our politically polarized nation. But in my opinion, this event should be viewed more as “a referendum on incumbent politicians by voters disgusted with the dysfunction on Capital Hill,” than a signal that the nation has moved more to the right.

Now the Republicans will actually have to  govern, which means coming up with programs and reaching compromises to avoid President Obama’s veto. Congress will have to do something together to address issues such as immigration, global warming, aging infrastructure, a still-faltering economy, and tax laws causing the growing inequality for middle and lower class workers compared with plutocrats. Revenues and expenditures will both have to be addressed as we continue to overspend on the military.

Scroll down in the embedded link box above and click “Animate data 1994-2014″ for a fascinating, interactive depiction of how our nation has become much more politically polarized over the past 20 years.

Yesterdays mid-term election is not really “the people speaking” due to the virtual disenfranchisement (often voluntary because people wrongly feel it doesn’t make a difference if they don’t vote) and the undue influence of money in politics.

Most Americans still have mixed political views and many have become “independents,” but as Pew Research’s June 2014 report notes, “those who express ideologically consistent views have disproportionate influence on the political process: They are more likely than those with “mixed views” to vote regularly and far more likely to donate to political campaigns and contact elected officials.”

“Those who hold consistently liberal or conservative views, and who hold strongly negative views of the other political party, are far more likely to participate in the political process than the rest of the nation.” As a result, Pew finds that:

  • “Just 39% of those who hold a mix of liberal and conservative values vote regularly.”
  • “Across-the-board liberals and conservatives are three times as likely to make political donations as those with mixed views.”
  • “Republicans and Democrats with very unfavorable views of the opposing party are more likely to participate in politics.”

This is not a victory for one side over another. Now is a time for healing – for getting beyond the rhetoric, fear-mongering, hate, name-calling and polarization that has divided our country. Republicans won, not by advancing solutions to problems, but primarily by attacking an unpopular President.

Let’s now consciously strive to “change the conversation” and re-learn the fine art of compromise and demand our elected officials get things accomplished for the common good.