In My Own Words: Asking the wrong question

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Every major newspaper in the United States offered details about the deal President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached to prevent the United States from defaulting for the first time in the history of our country. The questions and the tone of many of the headlines were disturbing. The first one I saw asked, “Who won?” Other headlines featured a variation on this theme, with writers disagreeing on which side proved to be more powerful and how the deal would affect the dealmakers’ standing in their political party.

I found those headlines disturbing because they clearly show a major problem occurring within our political system. The running of our country is not a contest that someone wins or loses. The potential default and financial ruin of our nation should not be considered a game of chicken with each side waiting to see who yields first. Our government’s programs – programs that have a profound influence on people’s lives – should not be part of a contest to see who blinks first. Our representatives are supposed to be working together for the good of our country, not hoping to make points with members of their political party. A good outcome for our country is a win for everyone. 

When did compromise for the good of all become an insult? How did being willing to make concessions that help our citizens become an affront? The extremists on both sides seem to think that they hold the sole truth about all our needs, even when a majority of our citizens disagree with them. Didn’t get everything you wanted in a deal? Welcome to the real world – a world where considering the greater good should be more important than achieving any of your individual desires. 

What is horrifying is that a good deal of what occurred was not based on principle, but the idea that Party A should never vote for anything that Party B wants, even if it helps their constituents. Personal attacks have replaced civility. Some representatives seem more concerned with personal power – especially the power to thwart others – than with actually accomplishing something meaningful.

This needs to stop and stop now. Those working in government should be working together for the good of our society. I can’t repeat this too many times because so many people in politics don’t seem to understand the idea: the good of our country is more important than any political party or any individual government representative. Let me say this in a different way: Stop the nonsense and take care of business. And that means all of you in every political party and of every political stance.