America has forgotten how to govern itself

I'm frustrated.

Finally, after nearly a year of relentless campaign promises and bickering about everything except the real challenges facing our nation, this campaign is over. I wish I could bring myself to believe those newly elected will lead our nation (and our states) through the perilous issues we face, but experience has made me skeptical. Rather than solutions, I expect finger-pointing. Instead of partnership, I expect partisanship. At least there's light at the end of the tunnel: the 2012 presidential campaign is sure to start in a few weeks.

According to legend, the Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burned. True or not, that legend is intended to make us despise Nero for ignoring the crisis surrounding him. Our nation faces its own crises, and many would argue our leaders too often behave as Nero did—focusing their attention and energy on petty arguments and political advantage rather than putting out our nation's fires.

Is this what our founding fathers intended? That we would spend more energy campaigning and posturing than actually governing to achieve the ideals for which America was founded? I think not.

We can do better, but only if we the people take matters into our own hands. The Tea Party movement, for all its shortcomings, deserves credit for recognizing that our government belongs to us and we must reclaim it. I differ with the Tea Party's approach, because I don't believe our nation can solve its most critical challenges unless we transcend the strident partisanship that has defined the Tea Party to date. But I"m not sure the majority of Americans believe as I do; polarized opinions seem to be the lifeblood of our media-driven public discourse. In the politics and public debate of 2010, a person who utters the words, "You make a good point," or "I agree with you about that" is immediately dismissed as unworthy of respect. Compromisers are wimps, unfit to lead.

Trouble is, our nation is designed to be governed through compromise. Perhaps that's why we see so little progress. Our founders intentionally required us to find common ground before taking action. They had lived under the tyrannical rule of kings, and when they organized their new government they agreed to this principle: No compromise, no action. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "Delay is preferable to error."

Somewhere along the way, America has forgotten how to govern itself. We have a Constitution, and we have the right (and responsibility) to update it periodically. And as long as we retain the present form of government, we must sharpen our ability to debate ideas and then compromise for the greater good.