To the Editor:
In this vituperative political age of partisanship, it is no wonder that 86 percent of voters disapprove of Congress, a body in which the national good seems to be trumped by political ideology, grandstanding, name-calling, pandering, and distortion of the truth—all of which gets in the way of common-sense governance.
Some of this elbowing justifiably begins with legitimate differences of opinion. How big should the government be? How much should the government regulate? What should be our national position on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage or gun regulation? What trade-offs are we willing to accept to protect ourselves from terrorists? How do we respond to the income gap between rich and poor? How do we stimulate job growth and deal with compensation for work? How robust should our military be? How should our health care system be structured? Answers to these and multiple other complex questions often start with our values, our history, and our notions of fairness.
Like most of us, I have strong feelings about how best to proceed on many of these issues. At the same time, I recognize that others have very different but equally impassioned views. Our political process is supposed to be about sorting out differences like these. The majority of us presumably hope we could marshal at least some civility as we struggle to find a way forward that is in our national best interest. The goal for most of us, it would seem based on the record of Congressional approval, is for Congress to give us outcomes that work.
Sometimes, however, an issue comes along that so defies common sense and incontrovertible fact that it should make open-minded people wonder if Congress can resolve anything. Who would imagine that despite dire warnings from virtually every climate scientist in the world, a majority of members of the House of Representatives would vote to embarrass the United States during the world’s most important conference on climate change by voting to limit the Environmental Protection Agency on its rules to lower power plant emissions? The evidence that our world’s climate is rapidly changing in ways that will lower the life-expectancy of our children is overwhelming. And yet the majority of our elected representatives in the House, driven apparently by narrow party ideology, has actually impeded solutions. Do campaign contributions from carbon industries and other special interests have anything to do with it?
Those members of Congress (including, regrettably, our own representative in the 10th Congressional District of Virginia) who vote to trivialize or combat this issue, are putting their credibility and judgment on the line for dealing with almost any issue and thus, I would hazard, are risking their endorsement from us, the voters, to hold their seats. Their incomprehensible votes on climate change help to explain why we think so little of Congress and particularly so little of the House of Representatives. Climate change is an issue in which the stakes are so clear-cut and the facts so convincing that there should be no hesitation about moving forward with the enthusiastic backing of our elected representatives in both parties.