Monday, September 7, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Sept. 4-10, 2009

DURANT, Okla.Hello again, everybody! Politics has certainly been interesting this summer.

In national news reports, we have seen anger, grandstanding, and – most troubling – genuine fear many Americans have about the direction of our nation. The economic downturn is the spark for much of this fear, but something deeper is driving the differences some use to divide us.

Our nation and our state have been at its best when things are at their worst. We have historically put aside differences to confront challenges that at the time might have seemed insurmountable.

In our political system today, there is an “us versus them” approach both sides use to get an advantage on Election Day. That works to win elections, but it is a poor way to win the future. That is why the current political climate across the nation is of such concern; there is more focus on winning an election or scoring a legislative victory than simply doing the right thing.

We see this approach in every level of politics. That approach polarizes the debate, deepening the partisan divide and makes cooperation less likely. Neither party has a monopoly on good ideas; I believe cooperation is critical to making progress on a host of issues, including those where there is the greatest divide.

Cooperation, though, does not satisfy bitter partisans on both sides of the aisle. In fact, we repeatedly see good policy killed and bad policy passed just so one party or the other can claim some victory or protect a special interest. Sadly, that which might work to grab a headline or satisfy a lobbyist could be contrary to what is best for those we are supposed to serve.

The two parties bend so much to the will of those with extreme positions that more and more people feel like the parties are leaving them with no place to turn. It is no surprise to see the number of those registering as “Independent” growing faster than ever because it is a way to protest. That is true even in our area.

For example, more than 17 percent of the registered voters I represent in the 25- to 34-year old age group are registered as Independent. In fact, voters over the age of 65 is the only age group in which Independent registration is not growing.

An even more disturbing byproduct the polarization of both parties is that our voter turnout continues to shrink. Many disenchanted by the partisan divide do not even vote. Their voices are silenced because they are drowned out by those with extreme positions. Democracy suffers because of that.

When I was elected, I was elected to represent everyone in my district. For as long as I serve as your senator, my job is to fight to make the future brighter for us all – and that is my enduring pledge to those I serve.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute.” Have a great week, and may God bless you all.

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