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Is Politics a Contact Sport?

Vince Lombardi famously said, “Football is not a contact sport, it's a collision sport - dancing is a contact sport."

So where does that leave politics?

History tells us that from the First Continental Congress Americans have had strong and divided views about politics. While it is popular today to focus on those issues that divide us, we have faced more serious problems and deeper divisions more than once in our past.

There is a way in a democracy to work out problems: propose, study, review, deliberate and vote. It’s quite simple really.

If you follow these simple rules you find out pretty quickly that politics is a collision sport. Ideas crash into each other. Discussion ensues. Votes are taken. Someone wins and someone loses. Then the whole process begins again.

That activity often results in revised and more popular ideas, more fighting, more discussion and more votes. In the end you find a compromise that can pass.  But there are always going to be winners and losers. There is nothing wrong with that as long as the process continues. And both sides get to continue the debate with the opportunity to vote again. It is when someone tries to cut it short and stop the deliberation and the votes that democracy begins to sputter.

I have never liked the phrase, “legislative dance.” It always implied to me a short-cut away from the legislative regular order. A pas de deux around the rough and tumble of the legislative system where just the favored few got to participate. It never allowed for the sharp edges of policy differences to be reconciled through the deliberation and votes of all of the people’s representatives.

What we are seeing all too often in the United States Senate today is the pas de deux of private meetings, behind the scenes deals, no deliberation, and no opportunity to vote on amendments. None of the required collisions that make legislating work. So instead the collisions all take place in the press where there is no chance to reconcile the valuable and valid differences of opinion that make our democracy work.

It wouldn’t take much to change this. Just a commitment by both sides to take the time to deliberate and vote and to allow the minority the same opportunity to legislate that the majority has. Isn’t this the very nature of the government that our fore fathers gave us?

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