, Newburyport, MA

January 4, 2013

From the pits to the heights

Bill Plante's
North Shore

---- — America had a rare opportunity to watch Congress making what is sometimes referred to as political sausage during the closing of Barack Obama’s first presidential term and the beginning of another.

It was not a pretty sight, and yet it provided an appreciation for just what is meant by “representative government.”

It was more than a power struggle between two major parties. It was representative of what both divides and unites us, and what is really meant by “The United States of America.” We can be bitterly divided, but we not only can come together, we can do it without bloodshed.

It wasn’t until 1874 that the late, great cartoonist, Thomas Nast, symbolized the divisions between two major political organizations with a Democrat donkey intent on the routing of a Republican elephant that year.

It did that again in November.

Since then, it had been trying to get the elephant to help in common cause.

It did, late Tuesday night, when the Republican-dominated House provided a scant but sufficient number of votes to join those of most of the Democrats to avert immediate economic calamity.

Divisions are, and will continue to be, forever with us. Our Constitution provides for their resolution because its creators understood the need for flexibility in the control of process, even though debate was far less public than it has become.

We are united by our Constitution that provides us with the right to be divided over what to preserve or what to change. That is what the last two months have been about. Neither party is politically monolithic. Both have their internal divisions because of regional and political realities of their individual states, and that has dominated the news.

In short, we did not change all that much late Tuesday night insofar as our economic problems are concerned. We did, however, witness the cracking of the political ice jam by both parties. That will suffice for the next two months when the economic issues involved will be revisited.

Political conflict is newsworthy, and there’s been plenty of that.

What is needed is productive resolution to resolve the economic realities facing us.

That must come from Barack Obama as president of all our less than united states.

It must also come from the leadership of both major parties from which there has been more than enough of divisive rant.

The America brought to great power and an uplifting sense of nationhood by its response to the great war of more than a half century ago suffers from the erosion of cooperation between its two major parties.

In a world shrunken by the expansion of both demand and opportunity by less than great powers, the economic turmoil of Europe and ourselves and the seemingly unending conflicts of the Middle East, those who would lead us must first bring us together.

To do so, the leadership of both parties must seek and nourish common ground.

To do so, Barack Obama would elevate his presidency, as few others have done, to historic heights.


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is