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Editorial: Resolutions were made to be broken

Biden crossing his fingers

President Joe Biden crosses his fingers as he responds to a question about the short term debt deal as he arrives Air Force One at O’Hare International Airport in October 2021.

New Year’s Day resolutions are rarely kept.

Reportedly, those who make resolutions to improve their lives in some way at the start of the year have broken their pledges to themselves within two weeks.

It’s a failure rate of at least 80%.

With that in mind, we offer these suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions in a tongue-in-cheek spirit, as we’re reasonably sure that any sincere attempt to stick to them … well, it won’t stick.

But if they did, it might be a good thing.

To the Democrats in Congress: recognize that your days in charge are numbered and if you’re going to get worthwhile things accomplished, time’s a wastin’. This resolution should involve a concept called “compromise,” an essential foundation of governance.

The French philosopher Voltaire didn’t come up with the saying, “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” but he certainly helped to popularize it.

It’s a principle that both conservative Blue Dog-style senators such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, home to the outspoken “Squad” and more than 90 others, should keep in mind.

In November the passage of the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act proved constructive compromise could happen. For Virginia, allotted $7 billion for highway projects and $537 million for bridge repairs, this will result in much-needed improvements to Interstate 81. There’s also funds for improvements to freight rail that could potentially alleviate some of Interstate 81’s heavy truck traffic. In addition, the bill provides at least $100 million for urgently needed rural broadband networks, helps build more charger stations for electric cars, helps modernize bus fleets, assists in replacement of lead pipes in drinking water systems and more.

Can Democrats get it together enough to pass at least one more piece of President Biden’s agenda before voters sick of excuses take the power away from them?

Of course, lack of cooperation from Republicans as a voting block means that compromise must be reached by Democrats within their own party for anything to get accomplished. (For example, every House Republican voted against the Build Back Better bill, which contains further measures to boost American manufacturing, put much-needed price controls on prescription drugs and help combat the climate crisis responsible for more and more extreme weather.)

And so:

To the Republicans in Congress: consider putting the needs of your constituents ahead of your demonstrations of loyalty to the national party.

A number of Republican senators and representatives crossed the aisle to support the infrastructure bill, but Virginia’s GOP congressmen were not among them. This of course (and unfortunately) includes all of the Southwest Virginia representatives: Ben Cline, Bob Good and Morgan Griffith. Will these three later show up at ribbon cuttings to take credit for projects built by Infrastructure Act funds?

The main Republican objection to the Build Back Better act is purportedly the without question steep cost … which is (pun intended) rich. The Grand Old Party has demonstrated no penchant for austerity, and owns deficit spending just as much, if not more, that Democrats, the main difference being Republicans will try to throw in a tax cut as they jack spending levels higher. Sure, it’s an oversimplification to assign presidents sole responsibility for the national deficit, but they do sign off on the budgets. Barack Obama presided over a huge federal deficit — but so did Ronald Reagan, both Bushes and most definitely Donald Trump.

We’ll call that New Year’s Resolution 2A: Perhaps Republicans could consider a truly novel strategy — instead of denying that problems exist that must be addressed, instead of choosing to sit on the sidelines and throw spitballs, propose workable alternative solutions.

Sure, GOP congressmen could bide their time until after the mid-term elections to do this. But really, there’s no need to wait until 2023 to participate in governing.

If that happens, cross our hearts and hope we might see even more constructive compromise.

Now, changing gears — to the media and the weary general public: perhaps a resolution to be more patient with the scientists, health care professionals, educators and, yes, even government officials who are trying to figure out how we find our way through this pandemic while suffering the least amount of harm.

Perhaps the narrative we’ve been spoon-fed through decades of spy thrillers, sci-fi spectacles and superhero triumphs has created a phenomenon similar to what folks in the forensic science and criminal justice fields call the “CSI effect.”

It’s just not possible for a conventionally attractive team of researchers to come up with a cure to a new viral plague in 90 minutes. Lab work is painstaking, repetitive, not particularly glamorous. Science evolves as the things examined slowly reveal their essential natures. New discoveries modify old ones or make them obsolete.

The urgent nature of this crisis requires front-line workers to proceed with the best information they have at any given time. When those procedures change, that’s a necessary reaction to new information. It doesn’t mean that what came before or what’s happening now is suspect.

We’re all in new territory, learning as we go. A resolution to be kind and considerate to others would go a long way toward easing the process of getting the pandemic under control.

Our resolve is sure to be tested. We’re crossing our fingers that it holds in this new year.

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