Even before the smoke clears from the political battleground, a funny thing starts happening. Cooperation, the behavior equally appreciated by the public and detested by the ideologues, is suddenly passing the lips of nearly every elected official still holding their post. And, in most years, this talk of cooperation disappears just as quickly as it arrives.
Whether this year proves to be any different remains to be seen, but one thing can be sure: Divided government is here on both the local and national level, and the electorate is sick of partisan gridlock. If current and newly elected politicians hope to retain their jobs, they’d be wise to keep this in mind.
This last election showed that most Americans don’t place their loyalty with parties but with positive results. It wasn’t a widespread wave of liberalism that swept Republicans from control of Congress. It was voter anger over corruption, lack of oversight in foreign affairs, a neglect of domestic issues like health care costs and the attitude that a majority, however slight, can and should rule with an iron fist. The Democrats who now control Congress should pay attention to that fact. Slim majorities are no mandate to govern the nation as bullies. So far, Democrats have pledged to include Republicans in the process, and we hope they do so. Lame duck sessions rarely see anything accomplished, but there could be no better résumé-booster in coming years than to prove that tendency wrong.
On the state level, the DFL now holds a majority in both chambers of the legislature, and while these majorities may be significant, they’re not veto proof. If we want a productive session this year, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and new Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller will both have to prove their willingness to compromise. While they may stand opposite in the political trenches, the all-or-nothing approach both have exhibited in the past will have to end. Much like the national level, civility and partnership are being promised, and we hope that both will be flexible and can make the compromises that are in the best interest of the state.