Celebrate the bipartisan infrastructure bill for more than new roads, bridges, jobs | Opinion

November 15, 2021 5:45 am

The historic infrastructure bill is worthy of celebration, but so is the bipartisanship that voted it in to law (photo by photovs/Stock Images).

Is it safe to say that most Americans are sick and tired of all the partisan fighting dominating the national political landscape, causing gridlock and preventing virtually any progress in the halls of Congress?

No matter what side of the political spectrum you land, you must be feeling at least a sigh of relief, if not joyous exuberance, that something has finally gotten done that can benefit most Americans.

And it was voted on by Republicans and Democrats in both halls of Congress. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.

So often, whether the headlines are good or bad, significant or insignificant, we tend to have a short memory. But passage of the bi-partisan infrastructure bill is a milestone worth remembering for a long time, for many reasons.

The very name of the bill, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, hits at the heart of critical areas that will have short and long-term benefits for Americans and the nation. Things we can see and feel that will have a direct impact on our daily lives.

In addition to the creation of millions of jobs, replacing old roads and bridges, the bill will make historic strides that address the climate crisis and advances the goal of transitioning to clean energy to slow if not stop the gross pollution of our environment.

No doubt in the months and years to come, we will see visible results of this historic investment. So will future generations.

But there is something that is just as important to celebrate in addition to the tangible benefits of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It passed both houses of Congress with a bipartisan vote.

While the bipartisan margin may have been small and narrow, it was bipartisan, nonetheless. Hear. Hear.

Despite the diehard partisans criticizing its passage to advance personal political agendas, hopefully this historic passage signals a new beginning of civility, collaboration, and compromise — the core things necessary to conduct the people’s business.

Extreme positions, whether on the far right or far left, rarely rule the day. Rather, they only serve as sources of delays, animosity and dead ends.

So, what is the end goal of extreme partisanship? Certainly, not what is in the best interest of most Americans.

State legislatures around the country should take notice of what has just happened in the U.S. Congress.

Most legislative initiatives at the state level are hyper partisan. We have seen a surge in extreme partisan bills being passed when it comes to voting rights, abortion, COVID-19 mandates, implementing Obamacare and Medicaid expansion, even to what should or should not be taught in public schools.

Such hyper partisanship has travelled to Washington and taken up residency. So much so, it is difficult to tell which feeds, leads and emboldens the behavior of the other — the states influencing what happens in Washington, or the behavior in Washington influencing the states.

For example: Did the recent vote by Republican U.S Senators to block the Voting Rights Act legislation mirror the behavior in state legislatures?

Sadly, legislative measures about critical issues that affect most American, during the last decade or more at the state and national level, have been passed or impeded solely along party lines.

Has the partisan divide formed too wide of a chasm to close?

Has the public tolerated it so long that elected officials think that such behavior is necessary to get them re-elected?

It is so important that the bi-partisan passage of the infrastructure bill not be ignored, minimized or get lost in its material manifestations as important and meaningful to our daily lives as they may be.

Being able to work together as Republicans and Democrats to get meaningful and lasting things done is just as important, just as critical, just as necessary.

We can look to previous decades to see great examples of major pieces of legislation that moved this country forward and improved the life of Americans, which were passed by Republicans and Democrats working together to find a good, if not the best solution.

They have included foreign policy positions, the Civil Rights Act, the NASA program that put a man on the moon, Social Security reform, welfare reform, Food Stamps Act, Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP), tax reform and many others since this country’s founding.

Some recent examples come to mind: The McCain-Feingold Act for campaign finance reform; The Americans with Disabilities Act; the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups).

With such a great bipartisan foundation and record of getting things done, it should be something that elected officials emulate today.

Bipartisanship is about doing the right things for the right reasons.

The American public understands disagreement and opposing positions. The American public does not expect their representatives to adopt and perpetuate a state of dysfunction where only infighting rules the day.

The bi-partisan passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act may just only be a glimmer of hope, a flicker of light in a sea of political darkness, let us focus on that small beam and build upon the hope that there is greater light at the end of the tunnel of political discord.

That light does not have to be a train. It could be the dawning of a new day, where bi-partisanship rules, no matter how difficult or far-apart the initial positions might be.

The historic infrastructure bill is worthy of celebration, but so is the bipartisanship that voted it in to law.

As we see job growth, along with physical and environment improvements, happening all around us, let us keep that in mind.

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.