Legislature getting off on the right foot

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Our View

It was heartening to read about the spirit of camaraderie and compromise that dominated reporting on the opening of the Montana legislature earlier this week.

“On Day 1, Republicans are united and ready to get to work.”

“We’ve heard from Montanans that we should find ways to come together, and we’ve done that. “We are one body, and we are going to be judged, and our legacy will be judged on how well we treat each other.”

“The rules under which we operate in this house call for civility, courtesy and professionalism. That must occur both within and outside these walls.

“Everything that we propose, if we want it to get through, has to be a bipartisan solution.”

Those are all soothing words from legislators on both sides of the aisle.

Hopefully they are sincere.

Stark political divides are widening and becoming more troublesome not only in the U.S. but throughout the world. Many pundits worry about the future of democratic government if the situation persists.

One need to look no further than the current government shutdown, now in its third week, to see what our future could look like if things continue down the present path.

It is worsened by media figures who have to keep shoveling red meat to their followers in order to keep the numbers up. The more they are fed, the more they want and the farther off compromise and statesmanship become.

Yet compromise is central to democracy. There are vast differences in political views among the approximately 330 million people who call this country home — there always have been. Yet throughout our history, it was a willingness to listen to others, respect their opinions, and devise solutions that were acceptable to both sides that has moved us forward. It hasn’t always happened as quickly as we would like, but we always made progress. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

These compromises have strengthened us, not weakened us, as a nation.

With such a diverse population, there are bound to be contentious rivalries — rural vs. urban, protestant vs. catholic, labor vs. business, black vs. white, native vs. immigrant, etc. No one side should expect to get everything it wants all the time. That’s authoritarianism and is anathema to the traditions of America.

Most of us learned as children that it’s not realistic to expect to get everything we want when we want it and that to get along in this cold, hard world, we need to consider the feelings of others.

The best solutions typically rise up from the bottom. We should not hold our breath for national leaders to grow up and learn to get along to do what’s best for the country, but we do have a say in what happens in Montana. Our legislators this week are saying the right things and should be commended for making the effort.