One of the most poignant lines in the movie “The Candidate” is when at the end, after being elected to the United States Senate, Robert Redford, playing the triumphant candidate, asked his most trusted advisor, “Now what do I do?” The campaign, as we all know, bears little resemblance to the job being sought. The nitty-gritty of governing is hard and tedious work. It requires a sensitivity and awareness of the needs of a politician’s constituency and the broader needs of the nation. Most importantly, and clearly lacking in our current representation, it requires the courage to do what is right, regardless of future electoral consequences. The excuse we hear too often is that we are in an election cycle. Well, we are always in an election cycle. No sooner did we say goodbye to the midterms then the focus turned to 2016. In fact, talk of 2016 has been going on for several months now. This creates a dilemma for those of us who simply ask that our elected officials pay attention to the needs of the country and their constituents, and stop campaigning. The simple question is, are they ready to start governing? The more important question is, are the Republicans who now hold a majority in both the House and the Senate prepared to do the constructive work so necessary, or will they continue to focus on the best way to destroy? To govern or not to govern? That is the question they must answer.
The agenda is pregnant with issues that have been crying out for attention. We all know them only too well. Immigration, gun control, pay equity, an increase in the minimum wage, a jobs bill, tax reform, an infrastructure bill and energy policy, just to name a few. Of course, I will not raise the specter of what is, perhaps, the most complex and dangerous, array of foreign policy challenges to face an American President in decades. In all of these areas, the GOP has seen its role as that of “the loyal opposition”. Though they are not the minority party in the House, and haven’t been for four years, they are acting as if they are. Well, the jig is up, so to speak. They control two of the three branches of government – legislative and judicial. It is clear that there is no excuse for them to refuse to govern anymore.
We have all known people in our lives who are quick to criticize, and disagree with an idea, yet when pressed to come up with their own, have nothing to say. The GOP leadership has been fast to criticize the Obama Executive Order on immigration. Yet, since the Senate passage of a comprehensive immigration bill they have refused to act in this crucial area. Not only did they not come up with their own solution, but they have steadfastly refused to allow the existing bill to reach the floor of the House for a vote. Of course, when Obama dared to act on his own, they were appalled and threatened all kinds of action including impeachment. It is time for this kind of political theater of the absurd to end. Governing is a positive and constructive undertaking. Is the GOP up to this challenge?
The new year will bring to us a new Congress. We all have hopes that 2015 will usher in a time during which we experience our own domestic “nation building'”. Can the GOP raise itself above its petty, self-defeating and nationally destructive behavior? Can this group of self-satisfied, arrogant and narrow-minded “leaders” grow beyond their natural instincts and do what is best for the country? To govern or not to govern? That is the question.