We’ve Got To Build A Better Politics

Yesterday, President Obama spoke to the Illinois General Assembly in Springfield. I have been to the Old Capitol Building with its marvelous statue of Abraham Lincoln (see the picture from 2013) several times rallying for responsible gun control legislation. The President was returning to the scene of his beginnings in politics to plead for a return to compromise and, most of all, civility in politics.

This is perhaps nowhere more sorely needed than in the Illinois State Legislature, mired in a battle with the new governor which has resulted in an unprecedented state budget impasse. If you think politics in Washington DC are broken, come see us in Illinois! I have just completed a term as Assisting Bishop in Chicago and live in the Quad Cities which span the Mississippi so I keep up with political goings-on both in Iowa and Illinois. We are affected by both!

Among the areas highlighted by President Obama as needing immediate attention:

  1. Limiting influence of big money in politics.
  2. Changing the way congressional districts are drawn.
  3. Making it easier for voters to register and cast ballots.
  4. Engaging in more respectful political discourse.

Some have criticized the President for calling for changes in Illinois he has not been able to implement nationally, but I would submit that because of his frustration about much that has been left unaccomplished in his administration, he sees more clearly than most what now needs to be done. I hope he will continue to work at these goals after his term in office is complete.

And, I hope whoever is elected President will begin immediately to address these issues. According to reports from Springfield, Democrats stood and applauded when he called for making it easier to register and vote; Republicans did the same when he mentioned redistricting reforms. So there can be bipartisan support for some of these things.

We just need to be sure that whoever we elect POTUS, is willing and able to work in a bipartisan manner. I concur with this quote from President Obama:

“This situation we find ourselves in today is not somehow unique or hopeless. We’ve always gone through periods when our democracy seems stuck, and when that happens, we have to find a new way of doing business. We’re in one of those moments now. We’ve got to build a better politics, one that’s less of a spectacle and more of a battle of ideas, one that’s less of a business and more of a mission, one that understands the success of the American experiment rests on our willingness to engage all our citizens in this work.”

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