Government Is Quite Out of Tune

By Kate Brightwell

When something is broken, the obvious answer is to fix it – or throw it away. This “or” gets tricky though. Do you put in the time to correct what is wrong? Or, do you scrap the mess and toss it into the trash to look for something new? This is the decision our broken government is now faced with. It is no secret that the nation is facing significant challenges and that our government is falling short when addressing these challenges. While it is quite extreme to say that we could “scrap” our system of government, significant changes need to be made to improve what is now an ineffective and unsupported government. The hard question is, can our government be saved, or is this a system doomed to fail? 

Today, in a presentation at the Washington Center, I was able to hear from a variety of sources about the problems facing our nation’s government, specifically in terms of ineffective policy decisions.

One of the speakers was former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. Glickman served as Secretary of Agriculture for six years, prior to which he served as Representative from Kansas’s 4th District.

Former Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.

Former Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman.
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.

Glickman described our system of government as “a system designed for gridlock.” This does not sound very optimistic, as the gridlock present in D.C. has brought policy and decision making to a halt in recent years.

The reason for this gridlock, as proposed by Jason Grumet, the president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, is partially a result of increasingly polarized political parties, with extremes that are rising in power on either end. Compromise has seemed to be a novel and rare idea to the current Congress, with neither side willing to reach across the aisle.

This polarization, Glickman suggested, is inevitable in a system designed to promote gridlock. When he initially said this, I thought he might continue with how our system is doomed because the gridlock is becoming insurmountable. Instead, however, his view was optimistic, as he looked onward to our nation’s future. This view was one he shared with both Grumet as well as former U.S. Senator Bob Bennett, who also presented today. All three of them shared what Grumet dubbed “pragmatic optimism.” They do not believe our system would fail; Bennett even described himself as a “Pollyanna man” when it came to his views for the future of American government.

Former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman (middle) and former Senator Bob Bennett (right) take questions from the audience in today's session. Photo by Jill Van Wyke

Former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman (middle) and former Senator Bob Bennett (right) take questions from the audience in today’s session. Photo by Jill Van Wyke

They did, however, say that many changes were needed to release our nation from the ineffective gridlock. Both Glickman and Bennett participated in the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform. After extensive communication, the commission proposed 69 amendments to the current system. These amendments ranged from reforming the primary and election process to encouraging a year of service from all citizens. Despite the vast changes needed to improve our political system, Glickman, Bennett, and Grumet all shared an equal belief that our nation’s system will work and continue to be a force to be reckoned with on the world’s stage.

Grumet said that the government is like an “out of tune piano.” This piano is not broken; it just needs the right tuner to make it sound beautiful again. These speakers suggested that even though our system is currently broken right now, we still have the power to fix it.

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