Cleve Francis
cardiologist, musician

Cleve Francis

Cardiologist; President, Mount Vernon Cardiology Associates, Alexandria, Va.; musician.

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Work as a team

Q: After months of acrimony in Congress, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are joining together to try to reform the financial system. In your experience, is compromise and collegiality the road to success, or to neither-here-nor-there mediocrity? When has being single-minded and uncompromising helped you, and when has it hurt you?

When looking at Congress, most Americans do not get involved in the day-to-day work of lawmakers. As one congressman said, making laws is like making sausage -- you don't want to see it being made. For many years, we have agreed with his analogy. The party system in many instances has been and will always be good for checks and balances.

Until recently the infighting and stalemates (filibustering, etc.) have been intriguing to follow. The ideological differences between Republicans and Democrats have been interesting. But the events of recent times (financial, education, national security, immigration and environmental events) have forced most of us to take a different look at the sausage makers.

The health and reliability of the nation's financial institutions, the health care system and the functionality of regulatory agencies have forced many citizens to now hold the lawmakers accountable. In such matters that involve every citizen in this country, there is now an expectation that Congress has to work together. It can no longer be business as usual (being re-elected and making sure that the other party does not get too much credit before the next election). The personal biases of individual members of Congress and party-line stances can no longer be the only concerns. Congress is now being forced to work together on issues and make compromises.

It was the British political philosopher Edmund Burke who said that public officials should give priority to public needs as he sees them by exercising his conscience and judgment. This was amended by another Brit, Sir Henry Maine, who said that the public official should not get so far ahead of the public that he breaks the bond that ties him to them.

In the final analysis, politics is frightfully local. This means that regardless of the standing of a politician, the folks back home are the employers and can recall and replace them at the voting booths. Now more than ever the American public needs the men and women of the Congress to work as a team.

By Cleve Francis  |  May 13, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Meeting in the middle Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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