Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 10, 2012

Politics and good business can still prosper when the basic math adds up

By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— If modern politics were a math class, it would certainly emphasize division.

More than one political analyst wrote before the presidential election that the winner would be the one on the hot seat. In April 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt famously told Harry Truman that she needed no more help; that “he was the one in trouble now.” One need look no further than the pages of the Nov. 7 edition of the Daily Telegraph to illustrate that point. When Bill Cole defeated West Virginia Sen. Mark Wills, D-Mercer, to claim the state Senate District 6 seat, Wills was quoted as saying, “the election will hurt Mercer County” because Democrats control the West Virginia Legislature. Cole ran on the Republican ticket.

If Wills is correct — and he may very well be — then we can all see how the United States Congress has helped to create some of the financial messes of recent years. There are 536 individuals mixed up in the situation including 100 U.S. Senators and 435 members of the House of Representatives. Sure, the president is only one although his legislative influence is considerable so if the country does well then the chief executive can only take a share of the credit and if there are problems he has to shoulder just a portion of the blame.

The leadership is going to have to do some selling. Members must be convinced that discussion is necessary. Compromise from time to time has to be achieved. Nobody is asking the politicians in Charleston or Richmond or Washington to give up their beliefs but they have to learn a little something about working together. These labels like conservative and liberal and independent might fit most of the time but there are occasions where our elected officials are going to have to cast them aside for the greater good. Those who want to be re-elected must learn that if they don’t do the job, then the customer (voter) is not going to buy their product any more (vote them back into office.)

Remember the old joke where St. Peter was taking the Methodists on a tour of heaven and told them to be quiet when passing the Baptists because they thought they were the only ones up there? Maybe for once we could be silly enough to believe that the invitation is open for everyone. It would be a great idea if our solidly entrenched leaders would share just a bit, be willing to listen to the other side and give a little to get a little in return.

From one network to another, news people immediately started speculation on the upcoming Congress and how negotiation on the problems facing America might be met. Within a day, both parties started posturing.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, were making pronouncements about the need to move forward and yet both almost instantly started talking about what either party could and could not do. It certainly does not sound like the two parties intend to compromise much, which is a major reason we hold our collective breaths every few months when the budgetary process is held hostage by stubbornness on Capitol Hill.

Like you, I am all for representative democracy. Those of us who do our daily work, who keep the country going, cannot take time away from family and job to do those tasks. It is perfectly right to elect officials who are paid for their time to attend to the task of government. However, we as a nation are becoming increasingly frustrated when so many powerful people bicker and argue rather than try to come to reasonable solutions about energy, transportation, and medical care, among others.

I wrote in this same column several weeks before the election about the need for working together and I noticed just a few days later that in the Daily Telegraph editorial board room Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., made a similar reference about ‘bipartisanship’ in almost the exact terms. I don’t mean that he had any notice of that column but I was pleased that he promoted those ideas. It isn’t just the Republicans and the Democrats, of course. A story appeared earlier this week that the Tea Party is vowing once again to proceed with no compromise and no discussion regarding the political agenda. Well, thanks a lot from those of us in the real world who need a little help here.

Charles Howard owned the great racehorse Seabiscuit. He was able to persuade a friend who owned the Santa Anita track to offer a purse that would lure the fans out to view a big event. Howard had made his money selling automobiles and the man finally gave in but asked if that was how he (Howard) had sold cars. Howard laughingly replied that indeed it was.

Now, not to make too many comparisons here but Mr. Cole has sold a few cars, too. I am going to bet that he will use his considerable persuasive powers in part to reach across the aisle so that members of both parties from southern West Virginia can achieve solutions together.

After all, a successful business is built primarily on addition and multiplication.

Larry Hypes is a teacher at Tazewell High School and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph.