Rearrange the seats

Maybe Republicans and Democrats in Congress shouldn’t sit apart

The author is a retired science teacher and school administrator. He has lived in Chico since 1963.

When I started my book, Down to Earth, in 2011, I was hoping our two reigning political parties could work across party lines. Instead, the gridlock between the Republicans and Democrats persisted. With the re-election of President Obama and the closeness of the popular vote, maybe both parties will realize the futility of maintaining this lack of progress.

Our country is in serious trouble, with the economy showing the effects of unemployment, an unstable stock market, rising debt, and especially Congress’ stalemate.

The aisle separating the parties is so rigid that they’re more like two isles. The gap between them is full of sharks. Congressmen and women who support bipartisan bills have been either ostracized or blackballed as traitors. Pacts have been signed to say no to any bills proposed by the opposing party.

This partisanship has contributed to the continuing recession. The fact that these good-for-nothing politicians keep getting elected is testimonial to our flawed political system. As a friend reminded me, “The incumbent with the most financial backing always wins.” Maybe this isn’t 100 percent accurate, but there were few changes in the recent election.

Both parties have made promises to work cooperatively during the next term. We’ll see. Concessions may come at a high price. The Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, have said they will consider new taxes, if cuts in Medicare are included. Is this like a closeout sale where no reasonable offer is refused? This is a ticklish tradeoff.

President Obama says he will not change his intention to add taxes and reduce write-offs for the rich. Much negotiation lies ahead before middle ground can be found.

Still, I’m hopeful. The design of Congress’ seating arrangement would be a good start.

In American classrooms, the old design with the seats in parallel rows has been changed to facilitate communication between teacher and students. Students learn better when they have better access to their teacher and classmates. Leaders of our country should investigate these innovative seating arrangements.

Instead of an aisle separating the two parties, opposing parties should be seated next to one another. Open cooperative discussion must rule. Isn’t that what the founding fathers wanted? Bills should be written together so that the president can sign them knowing he has the consensus of the legislators.

We must talk with each other rather than at one another.