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Capitol Update: Hope Looms for Our Political System

Our Political System

Apartment Industry Colleagues,

I have a secret. As a tolerant reader of this column, I consider you part of the circle of trust, so I’ll take the leap and share. Here goes … I’m beginning to think there may be hope for our political system. 

As you recover from your shock at such statements of folly, you will recall the many times in my monthly missive where I have lamented the sorry state of affairs in the halls of Congress. I’ve used up paragraphs crabbing about the new normal of partisan dysfunction, petty squabbling and seeming inability of our political representatives in Washington to address the growing list of problems facing the country. However, recently a dinner conversation with two members of Congress – one Republican and one Democrat – opened a sliver of light into this seemingly impenetrable void. It was refreshing and reminded me that all is not lost.

These two Representatives occupy the middle of their parties’ ideological spectrum. Such brave souls are increasingly squeezed out by the political base of both parties in favor of more extreme, “exotic” candidates, but these two individuals manage to hold the middle ground. They proudly and publically search for common cause with the other side and promote common sense, bipartisan solutions to actual important issues. They leave the “red meat,” doctrinaire crusades to the extremists. Both will speak frankly about the weaknesses in the party apparatus that enable bad behavior by some and pull no punches when leadership gives in to partisan pressure. Bipartisanship is not a talking point to them, it is a guiding principle that is evidenced in the bills they co-sponsor and the votes they take.

And the reason this gives me hope is that it actually might be having an effect. Case in point is legislation passed earlier this year to fix the standard by which doctors are paid for Medicare patients. As I have reported previously in this column, this was no small thing as a permanent solution eluded Congress for more than a decade. Many seniors lived in constant fear that at any time they would lose access to their doctors. Then, this past April, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stood tall against the most conservative and liberal voices within their respective caucuses to pass the “doc fix.” There were plenty of opportunities for either one of the leaders to fold under pressure but they chose instead to follow a compromise strategy. Moderate, pragmatic members of the House helped make this possible. 

Now I always say that any smart advocacy group does not discriminate among elected leaders and works with whoever supports their cause and gets the job done. That means knuckle-dragging conservatives or screaming liberals. As Bob Sugar says in Jerry McGuire, “it’s not show friends, it’s show business.” We will always support our allies wherever they may live on the political spectrum. However, when the challenges – for our industry and the nation – are so great, the outcomes so important and time to act so short, we should also strongly support those members of Congress who are constructive players in the process. They understand that it takes collaboration and compromise to succeed and that it’s worth it to do so. 

What is also exciting about these two members of Congress is that they keep getting re-elected! Sure, they have large blocs of constituents on the far right and far left, but those voices are drowned out by the voters who appreciate a focus on getting things done, a lack of craziness and a willingness to work with those of different opinions. Imagine if other, like-minded voters made themselves heard at the ballot box in other districts and states. Hope springs eternal.

If this column echoes your beliefs, I encourage you to take advantage of Congress’s summer recesses to meet with your members of Congress at home. Tell them apartments matter and why we need elected officials in Washington who want to work together to seek solutions to issues impacting our industry. You can learn more on the NAA website

As always, thanks for reading. Talk with you next month.