Europe once fought a war for 100 years. For the first 100 days of the new Republican-controlled Congress, another war took place on Capitol Hill, and now promises to continue. This one was ideological, but its consequences and victims are no less real.
One of the many casualties of the 100-day House marathon to enact the Contract With America was the quality of political discourse itself. Whether Washington is even capable of having the honest, open, fair, and genuinely non-partisan discussion necessary to create new political visions and approaches-actually to solve the many problems that Congress now just argues about-is a very big question.
During the House of Representatives debate on welfare reform, a millionaire Republican congressman from Florida compared poor people to the alligators in his state-if you feed them, you make them dependent. That inspired a Wyoming GOP congresswoman to make the same point about wolves in the Rocky Mountains. On the other side, some Democrats compared those who support state block grants to Nazis. One member of Congress lamented that it was the worst debate in all his years on Capitol Hill. "We are pulling apart in this country," he said.
As a result of The Soul of Politics, I've had new opportunities to speak to members of Congress and their staffs, both in groups and individually, on the topic of politics and values. The conversation with those in leadership on both sides of the aisle has been about vision and practical solutions to the anguishing social disintegration, poverty, and violence that is such a political football in Washington, D.C.