Americans are longing for leaders who are prepared to solve problems, rather than sweep them under the rug. They want lawmakers who are willing to reach reasonable, constructive accommodations with those who hold different views in order to get things done. And they want a government that knows its proper size and role — and doesn’t exceed it.
This year, let’s resolve to renew public faith in our nation’s leadership by electing strong candidates to Congress and working to restore good governance.
We need balance in the political parties so that quality candidates who will be committed to legislating can win office. Candidates running in 2014 know full well that if elected they will be serving in a divided government. They must be willing and able to operate constructively in such an environment — not only working hard for what they believe in but also knowing that in order to accomplish anything, they will have to find common ground.
Congress’ abysmal 11 percent approval rating signals that Americans are fed up with politicians who are more beholden to ideology or ambition than running the country. They expect leaders who do not consider compromise to be a dirty word and pragmatism to be an antiquated concept.
We also need to restore checks and balances in our government. Legislators are ceding too much authority to the federal agencies by writing huge, confusing and vague laws — such as Obamacare and Dodd-Frank — leaving the regulators to fill in the blanks. And through the use of executive orders and powerful policy czars — many of them appointed without Senate confirmation — President Barack Obama is working to advance his agenda outside the purview of Congress. Every administration should operate with transparency, accountability and within the constitutional division of powers that keep each branch in check.
Along with greater balance, we need a frugal, more efficient government that successfully executes its core responsibilities. We need to stop wasteful spending and increase managerial competence. We don’t need bigger government; we need better governing.
But it’s important to acknowledge that we the people have put a divided government into office. Divisions in Washington often reflect deep differences in views among the people. When voters elect representatives with sharply contrasting governing philosophies, or when we expect ever more benefits and services, but bitterly complain about debt, deficits and high taxes, we should not be surprised when leaders can’t bridge such wide and contradictory chasms.
So while it’s reasonable to expect productivity and demand accountability among our leaders, it is the people’s responsibility to send good leaders to Washington. We all have a stake, and we all have a role.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.