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Delaney: The Dangers Of Partisanship

Vermont Statehouse in winter, December 2016.
Meg Malone
Next week, a new legislature takes the oath of office in Montpelier.

Brian Mulroney was prime minister of Canada during the same years as the first George Bush was our President. The two leaders became good friends and remained so. At the funeral service for President Bush in the National Cathedral, Mulroney gave one of the eulogies – not long I’d say, but unforgettable. In it, he said, as he looked straight into the eyes of America’s current president, and his predecessors sitting beside him, that America is “the greatest Democratic Republic that God has ever placed on this earth.” Strong words from the leader of another country.

In November we Americans, with our formidable vote, gave a roaring affirmation of this nation as a democracy. But that said, our republic, represented by those women and men we elect to Congress and to our state legislatures, is in jeopardy from mindless partisanship. Just a few days ago, the Associated Press reported that “Highly personal attacks are increasingly employed by members of both parties.”

George Washington, our first president, in his Farewell Address in 1796, after 45 years of service to this struggling nation, cautioned that a wise nation – I love that word “wise” – will guard against partisan politics. And he went on to say that in his experience “partisan politics” weaken government, saying that partisan politics were like a fire – good for warmth but destructive when out of control.

A current example features a president shutting down government because he wants a border wall and his opponents in Congress not letting him have one. Neither faction can have its way, resulting in part of this nation’s government shutting down. Tens of thousands of workers go without pay and the photo image of our country is overflowing rubbish cans! I have no hesitation in saying shame to those who have brought us to this.

I’m a former state legislator myself, and as a new legislature takes the oath of office in Montpelier, I hope they’ll stick to the high road – no matter how zealously they promote their causes – and keep our state not only democratic but a dynamic functioning republic as well.