We judge elected officials based on their position on the issues we care about. We may cast our ballot for candidates that most represent the quality of character we want them to bring to government. We often allow judgments to follow the platform of the party with which we align and support.
There are other criteria we sorely need to bring into our thinking: Do they listen to others with whom they disagree; do they reach out to others in friendship regardless of their differences in politics; do they recognize the problems we face and work with others to solve those problems?
Our editorial board met with two members of the Problem Solvers Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minnesota, and Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota. The Problem Solvers Caucus consists of 58 members of the House, 29 Republicans and 29 Democrats. They meet weekly to address solutions to the country’s most pressing issues. Rep. Pete Stauber, Republican from Minnesota’s 8th District, is also a caucus member.
Problem Solvers commit to finding solutions and to listening to those with whom they have differences for the purpose of finding common ground and paths forward to legislation. Respect, courtesy and a commitment to listen and offer true friendship are hallmarks of the caucus.
The caucus has already made contributions to legislation addressing the challenges of COVID-19 as well as the infrastructure legislation to restore highway, airports and water systems. The caucus also gives priority to immigration reform, health care, the climate, the economy, policing, the national debt and national security.
Johnson and Phillips both acknowledged the challenges of the federal budget and rising national debt while also recognizing the need for critical expenditures and the challenges that increased spending present. Nevertheless, there is common agreement on the needs and a commitment to work on solutions. The tone of the discussion was a welcome relief from the positional, boisterous and vitriolic politic.
The congressmen recognized the political risk that comes with cooperation. For many, the price to be paid may be the loss of party support for re-election. That is unfortunate and unjust.
With the coming of the 2021 elections Nov. 2, there are now disrupters creating pockets of loud, intransigent approaches to local community governments — witness the atmosphere surrounding mask-wearing and schools.
If civility in public discourse is valued, then those who support the “problem solving” approach to resolving differences and developing quality public policy need to speak up. Candidates must be challenged on their policy stance and their ability to work with those with whom they disagree to reach solutions. It is time citizens who are tired of the positional noise and threatening contempt let their voice for proper discourse be heard. And it’s time we all recognize mob mentality is not an acceptable replacement for honest debate and discussion.
The Problem Solvers Caucus is modeling a much-needed political behavior. We should voice support for their approach and ask current and potential candidates to tell of their efforts to attain solutions to public problems and needs by working with others who hold different positions on critical issues.
We should also voice disapproval of those who disrupt the process and disrespect public government forums, and we need to support those who stand by their principles, listen to others and shake hands on civil discourse, respect for each other and a commitment to work to find solutions.
We believe a vast majority of people who identify with either party support a more balanced political discussion, but they are, for the most part, spectators to the politics of the day. The ordinary citizen needs to become more vocal with the representatives of their point of view and insist on competent, solution-oriented discussion of how they will resolve differences with others in public policy and attain solutions.
The Problem Solvers Caucus is working to succeed within the current structure. It’s the type of representation we should all expect because it will benefit all Americans. We endorse their efforts, work and the spirit of solving problems.
— An editorial from the APG of East Central Minnesota Editorial Board. Reactions are welcome. Send to: email@example.com.