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Fiscal hurdles require cooperation

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By Rob Witwer

The year 2011 is here, and with it comes a new slate. What’s past is past, and here’s hoping that our elected leaders both in Denver and Washington will seize the opportunity to put aside election year hostilities and work together for a greater good.
Bipartisanship is often spoken of, yet rarely noticed when it works. It’s not front-page news when members of the two parties work hard to achieve common goals. In my experience at the state legislature, the vast majority of issues were resolved through consensus, or something close to it. Those agreements never made headlines.
But there are issues on which Republicans and Democrats can and do disagree, and this is where common decency and civility would serve us all well. At the local and national levels, we face fiscal challenges of historic proportions. Polls show that Americans are beginning to believe, for the first time, that we may not be able to leave a better America for our kids than we had. The urgent need to fix our fiscal house trumps party prerogative — and certainly the careerist motivations of individual politicians.
This is not to say people should abandon their core values simply to strike a deal. Too often, what politicians describe as bipartisanship boils down to “let’s you and I get together and enact my agenda.” Working in a bipartisan fashion shouldn’t mean selling out on matters of principle.
It’s always possible to disagree agreeably, and that’s what we need now more than ever. Bipartisanship is more about temperament than policy — a forgiving frame of mind that makes allowance for differences while adhering to deeply held beliefs. No matter how difficult the problems we face, it’s always possible.
In the darkest depths of the Civil War, our greatest president called upon his fellow Americans to put aside the rage of war and recall that they were all countrymen. “With malice toward none,” Abraham Lincoln said in his second inaugural address, “with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Surely we can find that spirit of cooperation once again.

Rob Witwer is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and co-author of the book, “The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care).”