By KELLY HAWES, guest columnist
Researchers from Monmouth University have found something that Republicans, Democrats and independents agree on.
Washington is broken.
In a survey carried out in mid-December, eight out of 10 respondents said they were angry or dissatisfied with the way things were going in the nation’s capital.
That number includes nearly seven out of 10 Republicans.
Here’s the clincher: More than eight out of 10 Americans responding to that survey thought this nation’s founders would be disappointed with the way the government they created was working. Only about one in 10 said they thought the founders would be happy with the way things were going.
And again, that’s something we all apparently agree on.
Researchers say they found little variation in those opinions regardless of party affiliation.
So what can we do about it?
The ReFormers Caucus, a bipartisan coalition of former elected leaders, is hoping to find out.
Assembled by a Washington-based organization called Issue One, the caucus includes some names Hoosiers will find familiar.
One of the two co-chairs is Tim Roemer, a Democrat who represented Indiana’s 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 2003. Members also include Richard Lugar, a Republican who spent 36 years in the U.S. Senate, and Lee Hamilton, a Democrat who spent 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Altogether, the caucus has 186 members, including 22 former governors, 10 former cabinet secretaries and nine former ambassadors.
“The problem is not ideological or partisan,” Roemer said in a comment displayed on the organization’s website. “It affects the left and the right, Democrats and Republicans equally, and is costing the taxpayer and driving away many talented public servants.”
Roemer’s co-chair, Zach Wamp, is a Republican who represented Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District from 1995 to 2011.
“From the middle of America, this looks like the two-party blame game continuing …” Wamp said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in the aftermath of the recent government shutdown. “The political parties have hijacked the leadership of our country — they are motivated by fundraising, by winning elections. Not motivated by solving our problems. The American people want problems solved, the government fixed and they want it to run on time.”
Wamp was one of four former GOP congressmen who sat down with Washington Post political reporter David Weigel last fall to talk about what it was like to be part of the so-called Republican Revolution that made Newt Gingrich the speaker of the House of Representatives in 1995.
“There was an era — and we were probably at the very end of it — where public service was a noble calling, and you could trust people in public office,” Wamp said.
“They don’t know who to trust anymore.”
When President Bill Clinton got re-elected in 1996, Wamp said, Gingrich came to members of his caucus and told them it was time to govern. They had to work with Clinton to push through the historic balanced budget act in 1997.
“It led to the glory years,” Wamp said. “I give speeches now, and I say, ‘Who would ever have thought that the Clinton-Gingrich years would become the good old days?’” The ReFormers Caucus looks to fix the dysfunction in Washington by promoting transparency and disclosure, increasing citizen participation and reducing the impact of money in politics.
“Our country is now in a time of crisis when millions of Americans believe the system is neither fair nor just,” reads the conclusion of the organization’s policy framework. “It is time to return our government to the American people.”
Frankly, the American people should insist on it. The founders would expect no less.
Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI newspapers in Indiana.