Our national primary season is drawing to a close. Mercifully. After months of bombast and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, it’s left me with one thought. I am mad at … and disgusted with … both national political parties.

The gridlock and extreme partisanship defining our Congress have been infused into primary after primary where neither party fielded sufficient candidates fitting the job requirements our overwhelming issues demand. In too many cases, we weren’t offered “more of the same.” We were offered “less of the same.”

When I mark my ballot in November, some X’s will go next to names not better than the other guy but, as a friend used to say, next to the “least worst.” If there ever was a year in which we needed the option of “none of the above” we’re living it.

Let’s look at some. In Oregon’s statehouse race, we can choose between a former governor who said in frustration the state “was ungovernable” as he walked out the door last time, or a guy who has openly lied, ducked issues and, without a day’s political experience, would face some of the most difficult economic times we’ve ever had. Either one make you want to jump for a ballot?

In Connecticut, the next U.S. Senator will be a woman without a day’s political background who made millions in professional wrestling and who has vowed to personally spend $50 million to win, or a guy with a long distinguished political pedigree who has repeatedly lied about his Viet Nam service. In the U.S. Senate? Clear choice?

In Arizona, John McCain has shape-shifted and backed water on so many issues he stands for nothing. His effectiveness is over. That state will also likely send an inexperienced newcomer to the House who ran ads calling Barak Obama “the worst president in the nation’s history” and depicted his “family values” by letting voters think children in his ads were his. They weren’t. Is he going to be effective?

A leaderless national Republican party has become captive of a few loud know-nothings demanding ideological purity and, without leadership, it’s headed toward the edge of their square globe. Responsible GOP voices like Colin Powell, Warren Rudman and other respected, experienced gray hairs have remained silent when they should have been using their considerable influence to say “enough” and center the party’s course.

Democrats, with a congressional majority, have proven incapable of using that clout to govern. They’ve been cowed by blustery Republicans while their own Congressional leadership has tried hopelessly to stay out of fights. They should have been solving nuts and bolts problems instead of trying to launch a “new era.”

Democrats are also being led by someone in the White House who prides himself on being a mediator and a consensus builder. That may look good on the biography out of law school but that’s not all of the president’s job description. Sometimes, the exercise of brute, one-sided political force is required. Anyone remember LBJ, FDR, HST or RMN? They got ‘er done.

Alligator-sized problems in our congressional swamp are many. They’ll only be solved by common sense, bipartisan cooperation demanded on a scale seldom seen and with hands that can use a scalpel and, when necessary, a hammer.

Ideological purity in politicians always leads to downfall. Always. When the ability to compromise is lost in the name of purity, the practitioner won’t be effective. And won’t survive. History’s highways are littered with bodies of the pure left behind by the impure who learned to negotiate and move on.

One basic problem with our political system is we can’t get the right people to run for the jobs. We get too many opportunists looking for good pay and a retirement plan. The “best-and-brightest” don’t see it as honest work or won’t let themselves in for the public punishment often attached. Not nearly enough bright, capable men and women are drawn to public service anymore. Add to that the people who’re walking away from Washington because they see too much infighting and can’t be effective.

I believe what passes for national leadership in both parties doesn’t represent folks at home; you and me. We’ve developed a class of people separate and apart from us. They live in an unreal world and look at things through a different prism. Once filled with Potomac water, the Umpqua, Snake and Columbia varieties don’t seem to matter.

“A pox on both their houses” makes for a lousy atmosphere in which to cast a meaningful vote.

Comments are closed.