GRAMA Watch: The news media have become an advocacy group in the current legislative session. By forming GRAMA WATCH and ranking certain legislation according to their likes and dislikes, the media become a special interest group promoting their agenda. (See column by Tribune Editor Nancy Conway and Tribune story.)
And that’s OK. The media certainly have a right to attempt to influence legislation just like any interest group. But when they do so, they are no longer disinterested observers. They forfeit their objectivity in favor of their bias and agenda like any advocacy group. So, when you read their stories on this topic, be aware that they’re promoting a cause.
Ben Nelson: One Fewer Centrist: Back in the mid-90s, as the Democratic governor of Nebraska, Ben Nelson was Gov. Mike Leavitt’s partner on a major effort to restore a better balance in the federal system. He was a great guy and strongly believed in balanced federalism. Working on the project for Leavitt, I got to know Nelson and his staff well. He was later elected to the U.S. Senate, and took centrist positions on most issues. But the Senate is a highly partisan place, and Nelson took some tough votes that were unpopular back home (like making a deal to support Obamacare).
So Nelson is retiring, (The Hill.) and the Senate loses another centrist, a species quickly becoming endangered. With divided government, if nearly all members of Congress are far-right or far-left ideologues, the nation’s problems won’t get solved. We won’t get entitlements under control. We won’t effect tax reform. We won’t get balance the budget. We need more principle-based problem-solvers.
Most Divided Country Ever: Contributing to congressional stalemate is this: Voters are more partisan and divided than ever. In 2011, a 68% gap existed in approval ratings for the president between Democrats and Republicans -- the highest ever in a president’s third term. (Washington Post.)
Some people say stalemate is good because Congress does less mischief. That’s wrong. The country has serious problems that must be addressed. Stalemate means entitlements surge out of control, our crazy tax system continues, and the deficit spirals ever higher. Put those problems on a track toward resolution with some cooperation and businesses would feel confidence; the economy would take off.