Last night voters in many states ousted Democratic Senators, turning control over the upper chamber of Congress to Republicans. Republicans added to their majority in the House of Representatives, giving them the largest edge since World War II. It’s another recent “wave” election where the country seems to want to abruptly change course.
What is the country looking for, exactly? Could it be . . . Columbus, Ohio?
Not the city itself, of course, which can be found by anyone with MapQuest. No, it’s how the city works, and specifically its politics. Because Columbus epitomizes the kind of let’s-work-together attitude that public opinion surveys routinely say is what American voters want from the federal government.
Columbus has a tradition of moderate, long-serving mayors of both political parties; the current mayor, Democrat Michael Coleman, has been in office since 2000. For years, and irrespective of political party, the mayor and city council have pursued a pro-growth agenda that has seen Columbus grow and prosper while other cities in the Midwest has struggled and shrunk. During the last 30 years, great neighborhoods have been rehabbed and developed, downtown housing has started to boom, new businesses have thrived, and the city has developed a strong national reputation as a diverse, gay-friendly place where just about anyone is welcomed and can succeed on their own merits. For all of these reasons, people who live in Columbus are justifiably proud of the city’s direction.
Through it all, Columbus politics has been marked by a brisk efficiency that seems to emphasize getting things done above petty political differences. Decisions are made using the three “cs” — cooperation, consultation, and consensus — and residents can’t even remember the last time there was a pitched political battle between the two parties. There haven’t been awful scandals, and whether it is because the moderate approach is so ingrained, or because it is the heartland and therefore politeness is still viewed as a virtue, you don’t hear bomb-throwing comments or mean descriptions of political opponents.
I’m not saying Columbus is perfect, because of course it isn’t. But Columbus does seem to be able to get things done where the federal government cannot. It might be useful for President Obama and congressional leaders to spend some time here in Ohio’s capital city, not to give the standard quick fundraising speech but to see if they can actually learn something practical about how to end the poisonous atmosphere in Washington, D.C. and work together to move the country forward.