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The Capital Is In Desperate Need of Repair

by Glenn Davis, published
What’s this I hear about repairing the capital? Finally! They’re talking about building new platforms, scaffolding and other improvements -- restoration of a democratic institution in dire need of renovation. The American people support this and have been demanding it.

The planners speak of a structure that is 150-years-old. That’s right, it goes back to the days of Abraham Lincoln and a deeply divided country. Our democracy has faced many significant challenges over its history, but they are finally planning real construction for lasting change.

Bridges will be built to connect opposing sides. New platforms will be erected to correct structural deficiencies; nails and other fasteners will be used to prevent total collapse. This is what we have been longing for. The extreme partisanship we’ve seen in recent years has resulted in Washington losing these connections. The current Congress has reached notoriety, apparent in their dismal approval ratings and inability to legislate effectively. Capital repair can fix this.

They say the last major repairs were done in 1959-1960 and continued through the early 60s. These too, were difficult times for our country. But, major legislation was passed supporting civil rights, job training, increases in the minimum wage, the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, and the Peace Corps. Whatever was done in those repairs must have made a difference.

However, the system is now broken again. Surely, these must include hyper-partisanship, lack of respect, refusal to compromise, budget fights, debt ceiling struggles, shutdown threats, and other failures which have all contributed to congressional ineffectiveness. Capital repair will undoubtedly lead to progress on immigration reform and other important legislation proposed for 2014. How else can we fix the outlook?

"when your house has a leaky roof, you pay to fix the roof,” said Senator Charles Schumer about the repair.  It almost sounds like he’s talking about fixing a real leak, actual water dripping from the capitol dome. We know better.

Other analogies have been used to describe the project. They speak of the layers of paint and rotting iron as though these are the real problems they intend to fix. We, of course, understand that the layers of Washington’s political climate must be peeled back, and that iron determination is needed to move forward to achieve real progress. I’ve heard that some blame has been placed on a 2011 earthquake. Surely, this is yet another metaphor for the political schisms which became so rampant during this period.

They speak of the risks and challenges. Keeping the capital open during repairs is a major goal -- no talk of government shutdown this time. Congress must have heard the message; these threats are unacceptable to the electorate.

They speak of the dust settling, presumably to change the environment to allow productive debate to reach consensus and cooperation. Repairs must proceed cautiously; we may see congressional workers in protective clothing and hardhats to defend the repair plan. Working together can be risky business, but surely they will see the need to put differences aside and get the work done.

What’s that you say… they’re repairing the Capitol, not the capital? It really is the physical building they’re working on? Just the dome? Sigh. I suppose we have to start somewhere.

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