LLOYD GRAY: A small glimmer of hope

LLOYD GRAY

LLOYD GRAY

Who would have thought just a couple of months back that we’d ever see a 332-94 vote in the U.S. House on anything? Lopsided majorities of both Republicans and Democrats voting for the same thing – and a budget bill, to boot.

It appears congressional leaders have gotten the message that the people believe incremental progress is better than perpetual stalemate.

We don’t want our government shutting down, our politicians calling each other names and nothing getting done. Fiddling while Rome burns, in other words.

Of course the bill only cuts the deficit by $23 billion. Of course it isn’t the long-term solution. But it’s a heck of a lot better than anything that’s happened in this latest long, dismal year of dysfunctional government in Washington.

To those conservatives who think it’s a sellout, and whom a newly emboldened House Speaker John Boehner excoriated last week, do you really not trust Paul Ryan to craft a path toward a more fiscally responsible future? If you can’t trust the capital’s premier budget hawk, who can you trust? Or at least who can you trust who can actually get something done?

This budget bill gets us off the track of reckless across-the-board budget cuts that took no account of what the nation’s priorities should be. It doesn’t raise taxes.

The Republicans gave some ground. So did the Democrats. Nobody was crazy about the final product, but it was, as Congressman Alan Nunnelee said after he voted for it, a “small step” in the right direction.

Given that the only steps we’ve taken toward resolution of our national fiscal woes recently have been backward, that’s saying something.

The purists still embrace perfection over actual achievement, rigidity over progress – even progress toward goals they profess to believe in. They were convinced this deal was bad before they knew what was in it because they knew it wouldn’t be exactly what they wanted.

Anyone who doesn’t believe that compromise has been a central component of the American political system since the very beginning ignores history. The Constitution itself is a monument to give-and-take, to wheeling and dealing.

Compromise and deal-making are the lubricants that make our political system function. It is how politics in a free, open, diverse and factional republic must work.

Yes, some compromises are better than others. And bipartisanship that ignores or exacerbates problems isn’t healthy for its own sake.

But this event is a promising turning of the tide in Washington. It shows that people from both parties – people with deeply differing views of what government should and shouldn’t do – can sit down and find enough common ground to at least get the ball moving.

The substance of the Ryan-Murray deal isn’t the main reason to welcome it. More important is what it signals for the long road ahead in getting our house in order. It gives us slightly more hope that our politicians in Washington may actually be able to get off the political one-upsmanship, the jockeying for political advantage, and get on with the business of solving problems.

No doubt a big reason it happened is the realization that no one – not the Republican or Democratic parties, nor the president, nor the congressional leadership and rank-and-file – has gained any stature in the public eye over the last couple of years of hyper-partisanship. On the contrary – they’ve all slid downward in the public’s estimation.

That will only begin to change when the public sees people sitting down together and doing the tough work of governance instead of the easy blather of political grandstanding.

The “small step” of this budget deal is a start. May it lead to longer strides in the months and years ahead.

Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at (662) 678-1579 or lloyd.gray@journalinc.com.