When Government Gets Bogged Down in Vitriol

Driving this week along the winding coast of Maine, and taking time to walk the rocky shore as the sun set over the hills and pines, I was struck by the contrast of the beauty of our country and its people, and the ugly and divisive politics that confront us each day out of Washington, D.C.

Whether you live or are vacationing on either coast or all the beautiful spots in between, it is a contrast that is apparent to the vast majority of folks in these United States of ours. When folks sweetly and readily give you directions if you're lost along the byways, or are happy to tell you of a great spot to get a bite to eat, or step politely out of the way on a path to see a sight, none of them ask if you are a Republican or Democrat. They just do what is in their heart and what needs to be done in their mind. There is a universal set of values embraced by the vast majority of folks in these United States.

We then look to Washington and don't understand why the fighting and name-calling persists and nothing gets done to address our major difficulties. It is the exact opposite of the way most of us conduct our daily lives. We welcome friends as well as strangers to our tables, talk to them, laugh with them, feed them, and then we make sure they get home safely. In D.C., our leaders, if we can call them that, set up exclusive tables for only members of their tribe, yell at each other, laugh at others (and there is big difference between laughing with someone as opposed to at them), fight over table scraps, and then don't care if they get home.

I have looked at tons of polls over the last 20 years and worked both sides of the aisle along that journey, and it is striking to think that a vast majority of the country agrees on some pretty big fundamental issues. But Washington, D.C., is ignoring this consensus because members of both parties seem to be trapped in their own dogma.

More than two thirds of America believes that we should have a balanced federal budget, that we can have immigration reform that both secures our borders and is compassionate to the folks who already are here, that we can reform Social Security and Medicare without losing a safety net, that we can have universal background checks for the purchase of a gun, and that we should have a tax code that favors Main Street and not Wall Street.

Still, none of this gets done. It is bogged down in the vitriol and senseless battles of both political parties on Capitol Hill. Super majorities of Americans favor these things that represent some universal values of fairness, compassion, accountability and tolerance. We need to begin judging our leaders not by what words they say, but by what they do. I have given folks advice (and given it to myself) on finding the truth in relationships, and the first step is don't pay attention to what someone says, watch what they do. It will become very clear what they are telling you very quickly.

As the waves roll up on the rocky shore here outside Rockport, Maine, and as the morning fog clears, I can see the sunrise of another day and my hope is that each of us can clearly see the contrast of our own life and conduct, and begin to voice what we want out of Washington with more power and passion. We will be faced with a midterm election very soon -- in fact, we just passed the 100-days-out point -- and another presidential election will follow soon thereafter. It is time the majority of the country speaks up for our common sense ideas and solutions being lost in the fog of D.C.

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.

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