As we start the New Year, Congress have finally come to a partial deal to temporarily avoid a couple of the immediate consequences of going over the “Fiscal Cliff”. That they built the cliff out of fear, hubris, and just plain old laziness, and then pushed the country right up to it, hardly seems the point now. How to not go over the next few cliffs make up our next set of challenges.
Watching the whole sloppy fiasco play out put me in mind of the “Chickie Run” scene in Rebel Without a Cause. Watch this, and tell me if you don’t see it. Rebel Without a Cause Pay close attention as James Dean and Corey Allen discuss what is about to pass.
I have a problem only when it comes to casting the scene. Are the forty-or-so Tea Party reps that killed a Plan B vote like Buzz, getting their sleeves caught in the doorhandle, and now it’s too late? Do House and Senate “leadership” see themselves as Jim? Boy, the car went off the cliff, but we bailed in time. Are the rank and file all lining up just how Crush told them to, or are they exited, like Judy, and really want to see what happens? I, for one, felt mostly like Plato, right there with the rest of America, crossing our fingers, and hoping they would solve this before it got too bad. And I ask, as James Dean’s Jim does, “Why do we do this?”
These are big problems, but they are not unsolvable. They will be, though, if the people we’ve charged with solving them refuse to see a way other than their own. We cannot keep the pedal to the floor, steering straight ahead, and expect to not go off the same cliff next time.
I do see hope in who we here in New York’s brand new 19th District have sent to Washington. We can start with Chris Gibson. Gibson joined a group of 16 Republican and 22 Democratic Congressmen to vote for the the compromise Cooper-Latourette budget last year. With his vote, the first term representative signalled his willingness to compromise to get things done, and showed his understanding that the alternative is worse.
In his Deceber 12 Albany Times-Union commentary, Gibson pivoted his piece on these words. “Our Constitution wisely set up a form of government where, without consensus, we keep the status quo. I believe all would agree that the status quo is unacceptable so, by constitutional design, we need to work together.” Fine words, but how do you change the status quo?
Gibson answers with stunning action. U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, skipping anti-tax pledge, hopes for deal to avoid ‘fiscal cliff’ When 95% of all Republicans in Congress are beholden to Grover Norquist, and not necessarily to their constituents, this is a politically courageous move. Norquist has repeatedly promised to crush any candidate that does not swear allegience to him and his extortionist lobby, Americans for Tax Reform. Congressmen Gibson, though, has pointedly proclaimed his duty is to all of his constituents, the Constitution, and to the United States, leaving Norquist to rationalize his own diminishment. Since that November announcement, over 30 other members of the House and Senate have followed Gibson in rescinding and renouncing their ATR pledges.
Gibson has taken strong action to support the heavily Democratic Kingston. He was the Congressman that met with Mayor Shayne Gallo, and pushed the Bank of America to donate their building on Broadway to the city for use as a law enforcement center. Before the election, he promised to set an example to help our troubled Midtown Business Corridor. After the election, Gibson phoned the Mayor. He wanted the Mayor to know that he was carrying through, and was locating his 19th District office on Broadway. “Listening to (Kingston) Mayor (Shayne) Gallo, I am inspired by his vision for the revitalization of Midtown Kingston, and I want to open an office on Broadway to show support and confidence that Midtown can come back,” Gibson told Kingston Daily Freeman reporter Kyle Wind. According to a Gibson staffer in Kinderhook, the deal for offices in the 721 Media Center is done, utilities are being hooked up, and the Broadway office will be open in the next day or two.
In what might be the most eloquent gesture yet that he is willing to reach accross that great dividing line, Congressman Chris Gibson made an unscheduled stop after the Kingston Winter Farmers Market at Kingston’s Old Dutch Church. Alerted to his presensce there, a clot of sign-carrying protesters gathered in wait outside. Kingston Times Editor Dan Barton reports that, as he emerged from the hall, “Gibson went right out to the protesters and started a dialogue.” Both Barton and YNN figured the discussion at fifteen to twenty minutes, a lot for a cold and grey December day. What’s even more remarkable, in our current political climate, is that Barton declared “the encounter was almost completely anger-free.”
I am not completely naive. I hold no delusions that the leaders in the House and Senate will suddenly step back and listen to first- and second-term Congressmen who talk calm and compromise. After watching the sad chestthumping, sabrerattling display by members of the House and Senate on this morning’s Meet the Press, While I wasn’t expecting a big campfire with all gathered singing “Kumbayah”, I am not encouraged that Buzz and Jim will choose to let up on the gas and stop before they get to the next cliff. But, all is not lost. We can try something.
It may seem radical, but we can try positive reinforcement. We can call or write or email our representatives, and tell them we want compromise. Tell them, specifically, what we like about what they’ve already done, and what we hope they’ll do in the near future. If you are reading this in New York’s 19th District, click here for contact Information. Click on the contact us link at the top right, or call or write one of his local offices at the bottom. For other Legislators, you can try http://www.senate.gov or http://www.house.gov
We can not change the movie that’s already played. We can’t even try, But there are always sequels and remakes to come. For the next one we’ll write in a Chris Gibson character that gets hold of at least one set of keys.
*Editor’s note: Kingston Times content used by expressed permission