It is no secret that partisan polarization has reached unprecedented heights. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 80 percent of Americans believe America is a divided nation, while 90 percent think today’s political divisions are a serious problem. From immigration to gun laws to health care, those of competing political parties and ideologies have been more vocally at odds with each other than they have been in decades.
This disunity correlates directly with the current deadlock in the legislative branch, which seems to be the leading factor of Congress’ mere 15 percent approval rating with the American people — a number that, given current trends, is on pace to get worse, not better.
With the House of Representatives moving to Democrat control, where do we go from here? How can policymakers prevent this tension and inaction from increasing even further in size and scope? The easiest solution would be for more members of Congress to begin acting more like Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
Very rarely will one hear Lee provide heated partisan rhetoric on sanctuary cities, Obamacare or the national anthem. That’s because rather than worrying about making headlines on cable news, Utah’s senior senator chooses to focus on the issues he feels he can move in our nation’s capital to have a positive impact on his state. Usually, these matters are apolitical in nature, providing plenty of opportunities to work across the aisle and muster enough votes to move legislation across the finish line.
Take conservation policy, for example. Lee understands that, rather than helping Utah’s farmers and ranchers protect the Beehive State’s beautiful terrain, current conservation law has instead wasted over $1 billion on pet government infrastructure projects. Never one to run away from a problem, and recognizing that this issue of crony capitalism and government overreach issue appeals to Democrats as much as it does Republicans, Lee worked with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., to introduce the EQIP Improvement Act, a bill that has the support of everyone from right-wing think tanks to left-wing environmental groups. This bill will readjust funding priorities to ensure fairness and accountability — a major win for Utah’s farmers that would not have been possible without Lee’s astute evaluation of the political landscape.
Perhaps the best example of Lee making the finding of common ground a priority is work that he accomplishes as chairman of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee. Seemingly recognizing how much both sides of the political aisle have come to detest corporate monopolists that utilize government power for personal gain, he has gone full-speed ahead working with Democrats, particularly Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to get to the bottom of abuse issues affecting his constituents.
This autumn, Lee questioned the Department of Justice on its review of ASCAP and BMI, two music licensing monopolists that, as indicated by a number of small business in Utah, have a history of abusing their market power. Knowing that a coalition of Democrats, including Klobuchar, Booker, Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., have expressed concern over this issue, Lee took it upon himself to bring it to the forefront of the Judiciary Committee’s agenda so that they could all work together in protecting their constituents from ASCAP and BMI’s abuse.
These behind-the-scenes issues don’t have the clout to make national news headlines, but they’re the ones that matter most to everyday people. While cutting through the partisan news circus might not make one a star on Fox News or MSNBC, it’s what it takes to be a true leader, and it’s the only way Washington can get things done when dealing with a divided power structure in our nation’s capital.
Hopefully, this congressional session, more Washington politicians will learn from Sen. Lee and begin to adapt his strategy of presenting legislative ideas in a more tempered, common-sense way. The health of our political system will depend on it.
Greg Young, Bandera, Texas, is host of a nationally syndicated radio show, “Chosen Generation Radio,” heard on Utah’s KYAH 540 AM.