Time To Seek Common Ground


November 15, 2018

While both political parties seem to be growing farther apart each day, there are actually quite a few topics on which most Americans agree:

Political dissent. More than 90 percent of Americans believe people have the right to nonviolent protest and that the rights of people with unpopular views should be protected. Eighty-four percent believe news organizations should be free to criticize political leaders.

Taxes. Eighty percent of Americans do not believe corporations pay their fair share in taxes and 78 percent believe wealthy people do not pay their fair share in taxes.

Paid Leave. More than 80 percent of Americans believe workers should receive paid leave when dealing with serious health conditions and that mothers should receive paid leave following the birth of a child. Nearly 70 percent believe fathers should receive paid leave following the birth of a child and that workers should be paid when taking care of a family member with a serious health condition.

Immigration. Eighty-five percent of Americans agree that Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as young children, grew up here, and have little or no connection to their countries of origin, should not be deported. By contrast, 80 percent of American voters disapprove of sanctuary cities and agree that local authorities should report illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

Medical marijuana. Eighty-three percent of Americans agree that doctors should be able to prescribe cannabis for their patients. Thirty-three states now allow marijuana for medicinal use. In Utah, where Mormons abstain from using coffee, alcohol, tobacco and drugs, 53 percent of its residents voted to approve the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Infrastructure. During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton proposed to spend billions of dollars on revitalizing the nation’s infrastructure. Clinton proposed an infrastructure plan of $275 billion while Trump said he would “at least double” that investment. The need for funding infrastructure is not a partisan issue. We saw that here locally when voters overwhelmingly supported the $68 million school bond referendum.

Even with a controversial issue like gun control, Americans agree on certain things. Eighty-nine percent of Americans believe there should be laws preventing people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns; 84 percent believe people on no-fly or watch lists should be banned from buying guns; 85 percent believe there should be background checks for private sales and sales at gun shows; 74 percent believe there should be a federal database to track gun sales; 67 percent believe high-capacity magazines should be banned and 67 percent believe assault-style weapons should be banned.

So why do federal elected officials get so little done when Americans are in agreement on so many topics?

Unfortunately, our politicians are more concerned with blaming the other party instead of finding solutions. As many of the moderates who chose not to run this year stated, it is no longer acceptable to reach across the aisle. This inability to reach bipartisan solutions is a direct result of gerrymandering. Districts are so heavily packed with one party or another that there is often little competition in the general elections. The majority of districts are either reliably Democratic or Republican. In North Carolina, only three of the 13 congressional districts are competitive. Our own 11th Congressional district used to be competitive, with both Democrats and Republicans winning, but the most recent gerrymandering, which removed Asheville from the district, has made it solidly Republican.

Abetted by gerrymandering, the voices of moderation have been muted. Consequently, truly bipartisan laws that most Americans would like to see passed are not passed.

Ironically, most Americans oppose gerrymandering. In this past election voters in Colorado, Michigan and Missouri approved by wide margins to transfer the authority to draw legislative districts from politicians to citizens’ commissions or other nonpartisan organizations.

Americans want government to function. Passing laws most Americans support would be a good place to start.


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