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Editorial: Two-party system: Not only what divides but what ails us

In Washington, with a Republican-controlled House and a Democrat president, there's a lockdown. One political observer says the next four years will be one of "stasis" over budget priorities because neither the president or the House of Representatives have the power to prevail.

Thus, earlier this spring $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board budget cuts, known as the sequester, took effect because Republicans and Democrats couldn't compromise. The result was as if some science-fiction robot made political decisions that so-called human beings were unable to do on their own.

Both political parties are equally uncompromising on immigration reform, the debt ceiling, gun control, taxes, abortion, health insurance and just about any topic you name.

It's no different in Madison. There, Republicans control both houses and the governor is Republican. So, a Republican-controlled state budget is being pushed through that will lower income taxes (much more for the wealthy), reject the federally funded expansion of Wisconsin's BadgerCare Medicaid program (to benefit the poor), and restore some extra spending for public schools, while expanding private school vouchers.

Democrats are united in opposition. But the reality is that, as the minority party, they have no say. Republicans, with complete majority control, are only too happy to skip the messy business of compromise.

This is black-and-white, Us vs. Them politics, and it's not the way of the real world. In the classroom, as well in the office, team building and collaboration make the commercial and academic worlds spin.

Employees are paid to come up with ideas and solutions, test them, see what's feasible, what isn't and go forward in the most productive manner. Teachers, preparing students for the workplace, use similar instructional models.

But in partisan politics, lawmakers are boxed in by dogmatic slogans: Tax the Wealthy and Big Business; Expand Social Programs; No New Taxes; Government Regulations Bad; Private Enterprise Good. Today's lawmakers pledge allegiance to their party and its dogmas. They can't think outside the box, nor act for the public good.

Thankfully that's not the way of local politics. People run for city council, school, town and county boards as individuals. They're motivated to give back or to do something good for their communities. Sure, some are more conservative, some more liberal and some more in the middle.

But by and large, those who vote on resolutions, permits, plats, licenses, bids and budgets for our schools and local governments do so as individuals trying to serve their communities. They aren't posturing for a political party or endlessly campaigning for re-election.

The front page of last week's Journal had one of the most unlikely montage of politicians supporting the same project you'll ever see. The occasion was the groundbreaker of the new St. Croix River bridge.

Holding shovels of dirt -- side by the side -- were the likes of Michele Bachmann next to Amy Klobuchar and Tammy Baldwin, and Ron Johnson and Sean Duffy next to Ron Kind.

Talk about a toxic brew! How did they do it without flinging dirt at each other?

The answer, friends, has nothing to do with party politics. These were politicians morphed into individuals working as a team toward a common cause.

Next election: Before you automatically vote Republican or Democrat, see if there are any non-affiliated candidates, or at least try voting for candidates who offer a glimmer of independent, pragmatic thinking.

Online Poll: Time for a bigger splash?

The Journal's online poll question this week asked: Is it time for River Falls to invest in replacing historic Glen Park pool with a larger, modern pool that would draw more swimmers, especially older kids and adults?

Early results: YES, 68.4%; NO, 31.6%. Add your vote by going to