“If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.”
That oft-quoted line has been attributed to German statesmen Otto von Bismarck. He was right. Sometimes things that can turn out very good can be quite messy, difficult, and even unappealing in the making. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth the effort or that the effort itself is somehow tainted.
Right now, watching Democratic lawmakers work to find compromise in President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill and proposed package of related social investments is like watching a whole lot of sausage being made. It’s as though some 300 sausage makers are arguing over the recipe. What mix of ingredients is best? How do we make it into something palatable and healthy for the economy? Most importantly, how do we get it to a price point that’s cost efficient and affordable?
To hear Republicans and the news media report it, congressional Democrats are battling each other, locked in a bitter struggle for control of their party, and threatening to sabotage President Biden’s most important domestic priorities. But that’s not what I see.
What I see is the legislative process at work, the same kind of often messy, tedious, give-and-take approach our Founders engaged in when they declared independence from Great Britain and established our government with the Constitution of the United States. It’s compromise — compromise for the sake of the public good. Compromise between individuals and representatives of various constituencies with a wide range of backgrounds and priorities. Compromise to get something done to improve the lives of the people they represent.
I think it’s great that the Democratic Party is so inclusive, so diverse and encompasses so many different points of view that some members of Congress entered these negotiations seemingly so far apart.
I say good for the Democratic Party that they are willing to tackle three serious problems that many Republican politicians have ignored or pretend don’t exist: Crumbling and inferior infrastructure, income inequality and climate change.
Good for the Democrats that they worked with a small number of Republicans in the Senate to formulate an infrastructure package that is truly bipartisan, will improve transportation and commerce throughout the country, and bring broadband access to rural residents. Even better that these infrastructure improvements will create a half million good paying jobs at a time when many workers and families are trying to recover from the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Good for the Democrats for trying to improve health benefits for Medicare recipients, provide child care for parents who often cannot take jobs without it and provide education and training to build a 21st century workforce and fill much-needed skilled job vacancies. Good for the Democrats for working to invest in clean energy and preserve natural resources before climate change cripples our country.
And good for the Democrats who, instead of increasing the nation’s deficit like Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress, will fund these programs by trimming back the ill-advised and untimely tax breaks that the Republicans gave to large corporations and the top 1% of income-earning individuals. Don’t be fooled by Republican rhetoric and their propaganda machines in the news media: In return for paying their fair share, big businesses and wealthy individuals will benefit greatly from the improvements in transportation, the better-trained and higher-skilled workforce and from new forms of energy that will be researched, developed, manufactured and sold throughout the world. We can be the leader of the new climate change economy, and when we are, everyone wins.
I am confident that the Democrats will find compromise and pass both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a major social investment package for one simple reason: We need it. While Republicans like to say that Democrats want the biggest social spending program since the New Deal, they forget to say that we are in the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. We needed extraordinary action then, and we need it now. President Biden and the Democrats get it, and they will get it done.
I happen to like sausage. Growing up on a farm, I know from experience how messy it can be in the making. But the final product is worth the time and effort. So is lawmaking that helps the country at a time when it needs compromise solutions to improve people’s lives, preserve our economic well-being, and protect our environment.
Dave Harden (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Democrat running for Congress in the 1st Congressional District of Maryland.