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Getting Older Can Be a Blessing

November 22, 2016

Having begun my Washington journey as a part-time Hill staffer in 1969 and as a lobbyist in 1976, I am fortunate to have the benefit of perspective that comes over time. Election Day's results have rocked many worlds, while filling others with righteous purpose. Both responses badly miss the imperative of embracing the world as it is, not as we would like it to be.I did not support the President-elect but am not so partisan as to wish for his failure. To do so would be to deny the many urgent challenges confronting our nation. As a Blue Dog Democrat, socially tolerant and fiscally responsible, I try to embrace diversity as a strength and money as a finite resource.For forty years my lobbying work has encompassed diverse business interests, largely focused in the service economy. I also long ago represented labor, the National Rural Letter Carriers Union, which was enormously important in shaping my enduring view of rural Americans and the need for balance in labor-management relations. One of my strongest memories is of working with many conservative Republicans in the Congress to aggressively oppose a previous Postmaster General's unilateral efforts to dissolve the four extant postal unions into one collective bargaining unit. It was about fairness and balance back then, just as it should be today.My Party has powerful lessons to learn: we need to stop being the face of America's many segments and start representing everyone. "Flyover America" has had it and for good reason. The concerns of rural and exurban Americans don’t receive the national consideration they deserve. Addressing the needs of these Americans is not in fundamental opposition to the concerns of the historically marginalized. Addressing the needs of both can relieve the tensions that emerge from the tendency of desperate people to scapegoat.There is no need to choose sides between worker and management issues. Both are compelling and urgently require innovative solutions for our complex 21st Century workplace challenges. The service economy, which dominates our economy and which I have long represented, should never be viewed as a bunch of hamburger flippers. To do so, ignores and makes small their creative power as the embodiment of the American Dream, and the most accessible path for entrepreneurship for most of us. Small business people don't view their workers as expendable. Quite to the contrary, employee retention and training has long been amongst their highest priorities. We need to learn to love the job creators as much as we do those who work for them.To my Republican friends I would counsel this: continue to look at the political death spiral of changing demographics. Unless you learn to see women, minority, and LGBT issues as legitimate constituent concerns, age and death will whittle your voter pool into a puddle. There was no mandate to be claimed from this election. Elections produce legislative majorities; success begets mandates. Two flawed candidates did little to unify or inspire us, with both badly ignoring compelling social, demographic, and economic realities. The only constant in politics is change. The American people rightly believe that both Parties have failed them, as they stridently lurch left and right. The majority of all Americans are neither Republicans nor Democrats. They’re simply hoping for some bipartisan cooperation and civil discourse.The next few months will require extraordinary restraint and bipartisan trust if the next two years aren't going to fall into an even more damaging cycle of failure. I'm originally from New Jersey, where I quickly learned that self-interest was a necessary political currency. It is in both Parties best interests to start acting like adults; find common ground where it can be found; stop viewing politics and legislation as zero sum gains; and remember that the very angry voters who just voted for largely unknown change, have high expectations. All the money in the world will not be able to explain to them why a Republican trifecta of control was blunted by something called cloture. Fail them and the payback in 2018 will be swift. As to a political landscape that tilts red because of redistributing and the disproportionate number of blue Senate seats up that year, I would remind you of this: demography and a favorable candidate cycle were to have won Hillary Clinton the White House and Democrats control of the Senate. It's funny how reality often trumps expectations.It's time to embrace change, minimize partisan self-righteousness and remember that "control" in Washington is a fleeting phenomenon.

Chuck Merin

Chuck, Prime Policy Group’s executive Vice President, possesses more than 45 years of Washington experience, beginning with service as a congressional staffer. He has established himself as the premier lobbyist for service and hospitality industry interests in Washington. He is an expert in building legislative coalitions and helping clients forge effective, long-term relationships on Capitol Hill. Chuck is perhaps best known for his close affiliation with the Blue Dog Coalition, an alliance of more than two dozen pro-business, conservative House Democrats whose votes are much coveted.
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