Our political system has withered since the days of Bob Dole


The Sunday that Robert Dole died was a powerful reminder of what we lost as a nation.

Another member of the greater generation has passed away – another one of those Depression-era children who came together to save democracy in the dark days of WWII.

The career of the 98-year-old Kansas Republican is a reminder of how weak our country’s political system has become over the past 25 years. Far fewer supposed leaders are willing to put their nation ahead of their political party.

Of course, Bob Dole was not a political con artist. He did not hesitate to fight with his bare hands. He could use sharp tongue and sarcasm to take down an opponent, be it a Democrat or a Republican.

And he wasn’t afraid to direct his razor-sharp mind towards himself, either. In 1988, after losing the New Hampshire presidential primary to George HW Bush, Dole said, “I came home from New Hampshire and slept like a baby. Every two hours I would wake up and cry.

All of this made Dole something of an anachronism in American politics today – someone who liked the give and take of politics but knew, in the end, that it was more important to find compromises. and find consensus on behalf of the American people.

In accepting the Republican nomination for president in 1996, Dole summed it up as follows: “In politics, an honorable compromise is not a sin. This is what protects us from absolutism and intolerance.

Too many political leaders today would rather drink battery acid than seek compromise or admit they made a mistake. Today’s members of Congress struggle to agree on a lot of things, sometimes even within their own party.

But Dole has often partnered with Democrats to draft legislation that has transformed life in the United States.

He worked with one of the more liberal members of the Senate, George McGovern of South Dakota, to expand the food stamp program. (They continued to work together on food and nutrition issues around the world after leaving Congress, and in 2008 they received the World Food Prize in Des Moines in recognition of their efforts.)

Dole worked with another Midwestern Liberal, Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, to make school lunches a financially secure federal program, instead of leaving lunches to the whims of local and state support.

And Dole was a key ally of Tom Harkin of Iowa in securing the passage in 1990 of the landmark civil rights law, called the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace and in public places. .

Kenneth Duberstein, Ronald Reagan’s White House chief of staff, told the Washington Post: “Dole was a wizard at building coalitions.

In contrast, senators and representatives these days seem more determined to ignore the other side’s suggestions. It was not the Dole method.

Yes, he could engage in blocking proposals that he deemed to be wrong. But he had a guiding philosophy that contrasts sharply with today’s Washington political scene – where some phalluses label members of the other party as terrorists or communists, or where they blithely suggest that those of the other party are. there to destroy the United States.

Dole’s point of view was disarmingly simple: he cared less about the origin of good ideas. It didn’t matter whether the idea came from the Republicans or the Democrats.

This attitude is as rare as houndstooth in the halls of Congress today.

After his loss to President Bill Clinton in 1996, Dole did not complain about the stolen elections. No question of electoral fraud. No reference to those who voted for Clinton being fools or morons.

Three days after his loss, Dole appeared on David Letterman’s show and spoke about the election:

“I learned how great the American people are – Democrats, Republicans, Independents. Obviously you like to win, but you have to accept defeat and look to the future. It’s all about the future. I think American is in good shape for the future.

Dole’s vision for America and its people was undoubtedly shaped by his experience as a 21-year-old soldier during World War II and the painful 39 months of surgeries and recovery that followed his severe war wounds.

He was wounded in 1945 during fighting in Italy. Her shoulder and arm were torn off, and several vertebrae were broken in her neck and spine. He was not expected to survive. He did, but his right arm hung limply by his side forever.

Dole grew up in the small rural community of Russell, Kan. The Dole family lived in the basement of their house and made extra money by renting the upstairs to tenants.

After his war wounds, townspeople raised funds to pay for his rehabilitation and treatment. This support often moved him to tears when he spoke about it years later.

You have to admire someone who never forgets where they’re from, who never misses an opportunity to make fun of themselves, who sees the value of compromise and consensus, and who puts loyalty to the country first. political expediency.

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