The Lion's Tale

Onward together

Alex Landy, Reporter

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President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, Jan 30. Since watching the speech, I have had renewed thoughts about how both parties in Congress, as well as the American people, might respond to Trump’s volatile presidency in an effort to return to the principles and values upon which our nation was established.

In his speech, President Trump highlighted many of his political achievements during his first year in office. For example, he mentioned that his administration and the Republican Congress have passed sweeping tax reform legislation and made progress towards defeating ISIS in the Middle East. However, the president also referenced some of his more divisive policies, including on immigration, that is fueling the grave political challenges prevalent in Washington.

In my view, the State of the Union address was a representative of the tense and divided political climate now dominating our country. The president spent insufficient time outlining his objectives for 2018, and therefore missed an important opportunity to bridge the partisan divide both in Congress and among the American people. He failed to invite both parties to the table for a broader discussion about several important issues, such as immigration, gun control, and healthcare reform.

The fact that Trump was so focused on his own party’s achievements rather than use the speech to unify the nation’s fractured political parties frustrated many in attendance and around the country, including me. I find it troubling that our president cherry-picks issues that he decides are worthy of collaboration with the other side — such as devoting funds to infrastructure reform — yet entirely excludes other issues, such as military spending, from being debated by the respective branches. However, while it is mostly Trump’s responsibility to initiate collaboration in Congress, I believe that it is also up to the Democrats to put aside their differences with Trump and put our country first.

The Democrats must be willing to work with Republicans on important legislative issues such as immigration reform and health care for the good of our nation. The Republicans must also sit down with Democrats on key issues they are passionate about, including the environment and entitlement programs. However, the unwillingness of the Republicans and Democrats to reach across the aisle has furthered the disappointing dysfunction of the legislative branch – a similar gridlock that was present during President Obama’s terms as well as throughout several previous administrations.

Whether it be on avoiding a government shutdown or other critical issues such as military spending, I believe that the president and both parties are simply prolonging the cycle of hyper-partisanship and political gridlock that has plagued Washington for far too long. Rather than addressing the issues in a collaborative manner, the sides wait until imminent deadlines before reaching last-minute, and often stopgap, agreements, causing angst among American workers and families.

In fact, only 16 percent of Americans approve of Congress’ overall job, according to RealClearPolitics’ polling average. Additionally, the fact that the Federal Government has shut down twice in just one month shows the clear problems that our leaders are causing.

In order to reinvigorate the bipartisan spirit in Congress and the Executive branch that once made Washington a place of honor and dignity, the Trump administration, Republican leadership and their Democratic counterparts must put aside their differences in the coming years.

Bipartisan spirit has been the hallmark of our government for centuries, and our leaders must find a way to return to it. Once again they must listen to the other side, allow them to make their arguments, and debate important issues. And while this president is much more polarizing and erratic than any others in the past, our leaders must adhere to the principles and values of the Constitution that have guided this country through both good times and bad.

Both parties should find common ground to work towards a brighter American future to keep our nation intact before hyper-partisanship becomes an unsolvable, permanent norm in Washington and be understanding of the concerns of the opposite party. Having two-party solutions to such immense issues is the only path forward in this divisive era and the only method of uniting our polarized nation following such a bitter election cycle.

It is important that there be an ongoing discussion between both parties in order to forge Congressional consensus, bring about positive change and inspire a new generation of politicians to reform Washington for the better. As students, we can help mend the political divide present in our nation by engaging in constant discussions with peers of different beliefs and political parties and by focusing on respecting the process.

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