Progress Demands a Collaborative and Inclusive Congress

Holly Lynch New Yorker

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Here we are, just weeks before what is already a contentious dash to the midterms and there’s one word on my mind: Fear. Not just the Bob Woodward blockbuster about Trump’s White House, but fear for my country, my neighbors and myself. 

Our allies and adversaries are equally fearful. After WWII, the U.S. ascended as the world’s responsible adult at the negotiating table, committed to resolving every OTHER country’s spats and squabbles. We had the moral high-ground; we had moral authority. Heck, we had morals! Now we’re the petulant child incapable of civil discourse even amongst ourselves, divided along party lines, on even the most critical economic and social issues. That’s not just bad for us; it’s bad for the world. So how did we as a country get to this place?

My theory is we forgot what progress is and how it works—and why we ever valued it. According the Oxford Dictionary, progress means forward or onward movement towards a destination. Not left or right. Forward.

But “We weren’t really on a forward march, we’d reached stasis,” observed Isabel Kaplan co-founder of Project 100 Women that launched after the 2016 election to elect 100 progressive women to Congress by 2020, the centennial of women’s suffrage. Congress’ first Year of the Woman was in 1992, and we’re nowhere near gender parity on the Hill. Women still hold only 19% of House seats, whereas 80% remain white and male.

And while, according to Gallup, POTUS has a historically low approval (38%) and his latest SCOTUS nominee ranks below even Robert Bork (39%), they still have twice the approval of Congress (16%). Congress today doesn’t progress; it moves nowhere at all: On healthcare; on infrastructure; on education; on whether this has been the wildest summer for fires, droughts, heat stroke and rat infestations. On every issue Americans say is important, Congress is derelict. This maddening gridlock exists, because no one will come to the center, listen and collaborate on our much-needed progress.

“Politics is a contact sport. We’ve had our differences, but we’ve worked them out,” relayed Ryan Clancy, chief strategist at No Labels, a bipartisan organization describing itself as the Freedom Caucus of the political center, using Freedom Caucus tactics to empower moderates. Its new Speaker Project is designed to break that gridlock, by supporting a Speaker of the House that will lead from the center, where solutions are negotiated, rather than appease the fringes. It is no pipe-dream. A small bipartisan group of lawmakers could exert tremendous leverage by conditioning their January 2019 vote for the next Speaker. These efforts to break congressional stasis are needed and needed now.

Why do we need more moderates, forward-thinking progressives, women, and minorities? Because a white male Congress can’t serve a country it doesn’t look like or listen to. A cornerstone of democracy is representation. With representation, there’s inclusion. When there’s inclusion, there’s progress. Not just in gender and race, but in ideas and philosophies. And the only way up is Forward