A few days ago, newly-elected House Democrats, apparently so recently arrived in D.C. that they haven’t lost their perspective, called on party leaders to focus on solving problems and make actiontheir number one priority.
The goal is to avert a stampede into a congressional investigation of the many crimes and humanitarian sins of Donald Trump in favor of actually getting something donewhen the new Congress convenes. Investigating, after all, is currently in the hands of Robert Mueller and his staff, who seem to need no help in that regard.
A congressional investigation would, no doubt, make headlines; it would entertain those who, addicted to Trump’s tantrums, taunts, and tweets, want politics to be a “reality” show experience; it would provide fodder for cable news TV which (make no mistake) has flourished on the chaos they’ve brought us by their nonstop coverage of Trump’s shenanigans on the campaign trail and beyond.
But an investigation wouldn’t respond to John McCain’s remonstrance in one of his final appearances on the Senate floor: “We’re getting nothing done, my friends. We’re getting nothing done.”
The time may come for investigation, but right now the country is hungry for solutions to long-neglected problems that, in one way or another, affect us all. Single party government by the Republicans has accomplished next to nothing, as McCain recognized.
“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the internet,” he demanded. “To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood. … What have we to lose by trying to work together to find … solutions? … The success of the Senate is important to the continued success of America. … That responsibility is more important than any of our personal interests or affiliations.”
The same can be said of the House.
With Democrats about to dominate the lower chamber and some Republicans beginning (it seems) to see the truth behind McCain’s rebuke, it’s time to listen to the invigorated newcomers that will soon inhabit the House. It’s time for Congress to focus on infrastructure, criminal justice reform, exploding student debt, for instance. It’s time to develop a sensible, humane immigration process. It’s time to address the issue of homelessness, ethics in government, election reform.
There have been glimmers of hope in some arenas—in the recognition, for instance, that we incarcerate many more people than we need to in our bloated (and inexplicably partially privatized) prison system.
Eventually, perhaps, we can even tackle two areas that suck the lifeblood out of the body politic: the oceans of money that dominate our electoral politics (thanks, Citizens United) and a tax structure that prioritizes lowering taxes for the wealthy over sustaining safety net systems for the less fortunate among us.
Obviously, we can’t do all of this at once. But we can start.
Edward Abbey, American author and essayist