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Washington Needs to Hear From You


Open Letter to the President and Members of Congress:

We the undersigned are not going to sit back and accept the status quo of a government paralyzed by gridlock. The problems facing our nation are too profound and complex. It is time to get things done. It is a new day, and we are not going away.

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Hey! You!

Yes, I know you are multitasking—but hold on a minute. Before you retweet, or like, or share that gloating or fatalistic meme about who won the elections, can I ask you to stop and think about what you are doing?

What exactly are you accomplishing now by posting it?

As the dust settles from what seemed to be the most divisive presidential election in American history, chances are that some of your friends, family members, or coworkers had a different reaction to last Tuesday’s results than you did.


How are you guys doing? Have you moved on from jabbing at each other yet? I hope so. But in moving on, I also hope that doesn’t mean you’ve stopped caring and trying to fix the problems we are facing.

Because right now really matters. And it’s vital that you stay involved.

Seriously. Washington needs you.

The politicians won’t accomplish anything if you aren’t there prodding them to work together. And they’ll take their cue from you: if the public is busy smugly gloating or despairingly throwing their hands in the air, the politicians will do the same. They’ll say they have a mandate to not budge on “pick an issue,” and gridlock will prevail. But there is almost no issue that is only black or white—there are, of course, fifty shades of grey. If we don't figure out how to identify common ground and work together, we will all suffer.

I raised this perspective in an essay before the election and outlined some of the steps I thought we should take to move our government and communities toward positive, shared goals.

A lot of you had strong opinions on what I wrote. Some of you—even some of my close friends—disagreed with my suggestion that we search for constructive compromises.

But I heard from so many more of you from both sides of the aisle who shared my belief that we have more in common than the naysayers want us to believe, that it gave me hope we can push back against the gridlock and paralysis gripping our nation. Remember that the political parties and partisan media actually benefit from the gridlock, by swelling their memberships and filling their coffers. Fixing problems is not their goal. So we need to turn away from those sirens that are calling us back into our respective blue and red corners.

The people on the other side are NOT all evil. They really are concerned about the future too. So how about taking the time to work together for our common good?

I know everyone has very raw feelings coming out of this election, but we all have to get over ourselves. The people on the other side are NOT all evil. They really are concerned about the future too. So how about taking the time to work together for our common good? I don't buy the current narrative that our choices are either to “give in” or to “stand our ground.” The fiscal cliff, war in Afghanistan, undue influence of Wall Street on Washington, unsafe drugs being distributed to patients, the national security establishment’s erosion of Constitutional rights... Our problems are too complex to have only two possible answers, yours or the other guy’s.

I am in no way suggesting abandoning core principles or beliefs. I’m saying we need your passionate energy, imagination, and enthusiasm focused on finding real solutions. That doesn’t mean capitulate—it means step back and look at the problem again. Is your solution the only way to meet your goals? Are there ways to accomplish what you actually think matters without confronting head on what matters most to the other side?

Organizations from conservative Washington Examiner to progressive Union of Concerned Scientists have cited our call to action. Partisans from Van Jones to Tim Pawlenty are taking to the airwaves saying there is, in fact, common ground.

FOX commentator Neil Cavuto weighed in on the issue as well, during an interview with Republican Senator Ron Johnson:

It’s not as if the Democrats are all evil or you’re all saints. The fact of the matter is right now we face this—that unless this is fixed and soon, and Republicans get off the idea that you can’t even touch defense and Democrats get off the idea you can’t even consider reigning in the growth of entitlements…we’re going to go into an abyss.

And on the other side, Democratic donor Sergey Brin, the billionaire co-founder of Google, took to his G+ account to urge political leaders to think and act independently:

It is ironic since whenever I have met with our elected officials they are invariably thoughtful, well-meaning people. And yet collectively 90% of their effort seems to be focused on how to stick it to the other party. So my plea to the victors—whoever they might be: please withdraw from your respective parties and govern as independents in name and in spirit. It is probably the biggest contribution you can make to the country.

We know the paralysis can be overcome. Just this week, the lame duck Senate unanimously passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. It had passed the House unanimously during the regular session, so will now head to the President’s desk to be signed into law. The law could be better. There were compromises by both sides. But after more than a decade in the works, this law provides real whistleblower protections that both sides could agree on. The “Do-Nothing” Congress finally did something.

So rather than fanning the flames of the voices either gloating or condemning last week's results on your Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, how about sharing the comments of those who are turning to the work ahead with optimism, whether it’s gleeful or begrudging?

Now is the most important time to hold your elected officials accountable for doing their jobs well. Let them know YOU elected them, their party leadership did not, nor did their campaign contributors, nor the pundits on TV. And let them know you want them to stop feeling good about posturing and accomplishing nothing.

Sign the petition on this page and we will send it to our elected officials in Washington—to the House, the Senate, and President Obama—that you’re not going to sit back and accept the status quo. They need to know it is a new day. And you are not going away.


Danielle Brian Danielle Brian
Executive Director


Image of sign holder by Flickr user afagen.