Moving forward together

Posted: Sunday, January 30, 2011

In his State of the Union address last week, President Barack Obama delivered one message that we believe most Alaskans can agree on -- our elected representatives need to begin working together.

There is simply no more room in our national debate for rigid partisanship, rancorous language or wholesale rejection of differing points of view. Holding the opinion that people with different viewpoints are simply evil is sophomoric and works against finding solutions to the nation's challenges.

Alaskans should know this better than most Americans. More than half the state's registered voters don't declare themselves members of any political party or group. We proved our independence of political thought just last November by electing U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski on a write-in ballot.

Democrat? Republican? In the end, Alaskans didn't care.

Seems most of the rest of the country is feeling this way, too. Just about every national political pundit and soothsayer saw last November's election results as a message from the electorate to Washington, D.C. -- stop the squabbling and get to work.

We couldn't agree more.

But to get past the platitudes is going to mean something that some factions are going to have a hard time swallowing -- compromise. The biggest reason we find ourselves feeling like nothing is changing is because for too long, no one was changing. Political and economic positions remains cast in concrete. No side was willing to actually do what they kept promising us they would, which was work together and cooperate.

And cooperating means compromise. We usually understand that concept when, as adults, we insist that children to play nice with each other.

It is time that adults we've elected accept that the same rules of compromise -- playing nice -- apply in politics, too.

The time starts now. We'll be watching to see if members of Congress can suck it up, grow up and start compromising and cooperating.

And while we're on the subject, it wouldn't hurt to remind ourselves that the President's message applies not just to Congress, but to us, the voters. We expect common sense and leadership from our elected officials. But if we remain as starkly polarized as some of us have been so far, that sends a very different message to those we've chosen to represent us.

In short: If we are to overcome the challenges facing the nation, Congress should heed the president's call for unity, as they promised the voters.

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