Monday, April 19

Daniel Gaytan: We need to change the tone of our politics. The gridlock has to stop.

Our nation just endured one of the most anticipated elections in a generation amid a pandemic that has completely engulfed our country. In addition to the pandemic, our country seems entrenched in an existential threat to our democracy. This moment in time is unique, but how did we get here?

On Oct. 1, 2013, our federal government was shut down for 16 days. The source of the shutdown was the junior senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, and his crusade to delay the inevitable implementation of the Affordable Care Act. At the time, it really felt like our Congress had hit rock bottom with partisan divide at its peak. Still, we had no idea what lay ahead.

In the subsequent years, many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have lost re-election for not being partisan enough. Uncontroversial legislation stalled for fear of seeming sympathetic to the agenda of Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner and Paul Ryan. Simply put, nobody was willing to compromise.

This leads us to today. While the outcome of the presidential election took slightly longer than previous years due to the unprecedented amount of mail-in ballots received, the results are clear. Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump and is on track to win more than 300 of the 538 electoral votes.

Yet partisanship and tribalism continues to rear its ugly head. We have seen the president and his closest political allies refuse to accept the election results and in many instances undermine our election system all together. These allegations are truly shameful and inexcusable — a new low for our country. This, despite officials at President Trump’s very own Department of Homeland Security having called this election the most secure in the nation’s history.

Four years ago, the election results made it clear that Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton. While few, if any, questioned our election process in deriving this result, many refused to accept Trump as their president. What he represented to some was simply reprehensible and many could not come to grips with calling him our commander in chief.

In his presidency, Trump never truly made an appeal to his #notmypresident constituents, oftentimes referring to the country as red states and blue states, further perpetuating the tribalism that is so ingrained in our country. Historians will decide the true effectiveness and harm of his policies, but one thing is certain, he governed to appease his base of supporters.

This form of governing is not sustainable. Our Founding Fathers formed one of the greatest compromises through the establishment of our bicameral form of government and our Constitution, a Constitution which allows someone to have a difference of opinion and voice it freely.

It is not acceptable to believe that one is unpatriotic for having opposing political beliefs. We all want what is best for our country. Although this county is vast, there are many more things that unite us than what divides us.

Until we, as citizens, begin to change our acceptance of our neighbors from the opposing party, our elected officials will continue to act as they do, for they are only a representation of their constituents. We need to allow our representatives to compromise for the sake of the nation.

President-elect Biden has offered a very different tone in his attempt to heal and unite our country. But this will fall on deaf ears in Congress among leaders who are only representing the attitudes of the constituents who voted for them. Our society as a whole needs to change the tone of its politics. We need to be more accepting and allow compromise in difference of opinion if we want to see that change in Congress.

There are too many issues our next president and Congress need to address. We cannot afford to continue this gridlock that has hampered our government from meaningfully addressing some of our biggest challenges in a bipartisan way.

Gaytan is a public policy manager for the Alzheimer’s Association. He lives in National City.

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