In Washington there appears to be no hope for anything like bipartisan cooperation — not even to mention nonpartisan thinking. Everything in our nation's capital is akin to trench warfare, with the two sides — the now dominant
Congressional Republicans and the demoralized Democrats of the House and Senate glaring at each other across a no-man's land of stalled or vindictive legislation.
It is much the same with the Tennessee General Assembly in Nashville, where the most obviously beneficial possibilities — think Governor Haslam's proposed Insure Tennessee vehicle for overdue Medicaid expansion — are doomed to inevitable oblivion once the GOP super-majority there finds a way to link them to the name of President Obama.
American history — if a nation this conflicted can actually survive — will surely reflect at some future point on the ignominy of a time when an entire national party devoted itself not to the art of governing but to a grim determination not to govern. (The periodic attempt of Republicans in Congress to shut down the government is not the anomaly it is often presented as by a credulous media; preventing government would seem to be not a stratagem but an end in itself for the anarchist ideologues who control the party's right wing.)
Luckily, though, there is one governmental unit that still seems to be functioning across party lines with the goal in mind of securing the greatest good for the greatest number. It's the Shelby County Commission, whose seven Democrats and six Republicans have demonstrated twice in this calendar year that they not only can achieve unity of purpose, but do so in such a way as to shame the bodies that theoretically represent the larger enclaves of state and nation.
Casting partisanship aside back in February, the members of the commission, among whose responsibilities it is to maintain the effectiveness of Regional One Health (aka The Med) voted 12-0 for a resolution urging the General Assembly to approve the Haslam plan, which would have brought $1.4 billion a year into Tennessee for the rescue of its financially challenged hospitals.
Although some Republicans in Nashville were ready to concur, a band of GOP ideologues on a single Senate committee prevented the plan from even getting to the floor. All hail gridlock!
More recently, the commission put itself on record this past Monday with the same degree of unanimity in opposition to voucher legislation which has already cleared the state Senate and is ready for processing by the House. The Republicans and Democrats of the County Commission pointed out the obvious: Any money channeled into private schools will be at the expense of the state's — and the county's — public school systems.
The Shelby County Commission seems to have gotten the knack of seeing beyond abstract partisanship so as to do some real governing on behalf of their community. It's an elementary habit of mind but one that seems unhappily lost to the denizens of state and local government.