Our democracy is built on men and women elected to serve their country and their constituents from the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. These fallible souls are capable of great things as well as terrible misjudgments. In fact, some of our greatest leaders have been a confounding mixture of both — visionary leader and unethical scoundrel. Such things go along with the human condition.
Yet, in our day too frequently campaigns, strategists, commentators and a massive PR machine promote a view that our elected leaders are ideological robots, programmed to either perpetually turn to the left or the right on all policy matters. Under this impression, there’s no give, no compromise. There is only eternal struggle. Very little is accomplished as both Democrats and Republicans are always looking ahead to the next election.
Thus, we are happy to report that on Wednesday a dozen Republican senators and President Barack Obama sat down for dinner at a fancy Washington hotel. Reports from the meal were generally positive. A chummy 90 minutes won’t fix all our problems, of course. Yet, talking is always better than name-calling.
We’d like to believe the potential for this has always been there. The hyper-partisan may prefer to portray the other side as the enemy, but a reasonable section of D.C.’s Republicans and Democrats know better. They and their flesh-and-blood colleagues across the aisle are not robots.
Wednesday’s dinner, as well as Obama’s scheduled visit to Congress next week, should serve as an ice-breaker. The nation’s economy and budget won’t get fixed so long as both sides are locked in standoff. So, let the talking, visiting, kibitzing, dining, elbow-rubbing and chatting commence in Congress and the White House.
“I would suggest that the approach of campaigning in America and really being quite confrontational hasn’t been working so well, and so I’m hoping that this is a new approach on the part of the president to reach out, to have some dialogue to see if there is common ground,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., one of the 12 senators who dined with the president. “Because we’ve got some really serious challenges and so much we could accomplish if we can find that common ground.”