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Lifting Words From David Clarenbach Follows Frank Assessment From Andy Friedman About Election 2016

October 26, 2016

The tone and spirit of our political culture has long been an interest of mine.  At times it has a historical bent such as when President John Adams left by stage in the middle of the night so not needing to attend the inauguration the following day of his successor, Thomas Jefferson.  But in the last decade my interest in the topic has to do with the erosion of the invisible glue that binds us together as citizens.  More people it seems than ever have ‘group think’ when it comes to party politics and the act of compromise can get any member of congress a nasty primary.

With that in mind James and I were invited Wednesday for lunch to hear political analyst Andy Friedman of CNBC make a presentation for those who use services from Merrill Lynch. I was very interested in hearing first-hand the perspective of one who has forgotten more about politics than many will ever know.

Friedman stated he knew at the conclusion of the first presidential debate the race for the White House was over.  He based his conclusion on the fact that while every opponent to Donald Trump had crumbled in the primaries Hillary Clinton stood her ground on the debate stage and there was no unrecoverable error committed.

Readers at this point will know I was pleased with his assessment of the race.  Had he stopped there all would have been grand.  But then he continued with what the future likely holds following the inauguration of Clinton.  He stated there is nothing in the cards except for continued stalemate and polarization in both houses of congress.

I am not naïve about politics and his reading of what may unfold in the years ahead is not a new prediction.  But coming from Friedman standing on a riser in front of me was different than reading the words in a column from the newspapers.  I want my nation to again be able to govern and to hear that it likely will not happen was unsettling.

When I had the opportunity for a question I took the microphone and went to the point that has been central to my angst about this election cycle.

Since all have witnessed the fact our democracy is a fragile thing might the establishment Republicans and the pragmatic Democrats try to find common ground and not only work for the sake of governing but also for their self-interests?”

“Really good question” was Friedman’s reply but “I am sorry I have to answer no.”

With that he said there was no way given the extreme polarization of interest groups and the money they wield that a meeting of the minds would happen. Without some external force as a ground-changer (like a 9/11) there was no reason to expect any changes in the way congress and the White House operate or the tone of our politics.

I would have been most dismayed had it not been for former Democratic State Representative David Clarenbach, seated at our table, who left me with the following story.  He said that when he stood before the state assembly on his last day–having given up his seat and also following a defeat for congress–that those who came up to shake his hand and wish him well were countless members of the Republican side of the aisle.

During his time as speaker pro-tem Clarenbach had not shut down speakers when the opposition was wanting to talk.  He wanted a fair and robust debate on the issues by allowing all to be a part of the process.  And when it came time to bid farewell to the legislature members of the opposition had not forgotten his civility over the many years.

This nation needs many things, but perhaps nothing more than several statesmen and stateswomen, who can again prove that the grand traditions of our past can again be realized.

As the Constitutional Convention was proceeding Ben Franklin often looked at the president’s chair and saw the image of the sun that was painted upon it.  After the proceedings were complete he remarked to other colleagues that he had wondered if the sun was rising or setting on the chair, and felt with the completion of the work that it was indeed rising.

But after the past decade where seemingly intractable divisions in government are the norm one can rightly ask where the sun is in relation to America.  These are not the best days when it comes to how the political process should work, or the type of outcome citizens should expect from their government.

As I told Clarenbach upon leaving, “We need more folks with your mindset in politics.”

And so it goes.

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