, Gloucester, MA

Letters/My View

October 30, 2012

Letter: Loss of Senate icons looms as loss of an era

To the Editor:

With everyone’s passions and attention, whether they are Democrats or Republicans, focused on the election, it’s easy for all of us to overlook the news about two former U.S. senators, from both parties who personified a much more civil, cooperative, and productive era in American politics than anything we have seen in recent years.

I am, of course, referring to the losses of former Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter and former South Dakota Senator George McGovern.

The passing of Specter and McGovern are, in many ways, symbolic of the passing of an era when politicians of different parties might frequently disagree vehemently on one issue or another, but still find some patch of common ground on which to stand, and areas of compromise upon which they could agree, so that the nation’s business got done.

Whether people realize it or not, the passing, not just of Arlen Specter and George McGovern, but of that era, represents a loss from which I am beginning to think the nation may never recover.

Whether Mitt Romney or President Obama prevails on Nov. 6, the country will still be facing almost unprecedented, multiple challenges — both at home and abroad. It should worry us all that the country and its political class are now so deeply divided that solutions to those multiple challenges may be impossible to find, given that men and women like George McGovern, Arlen Specter, Ted Kennedy, Tip O’Neill, Jerry Ford, Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, Orrin Hatch, and even Ronald Reagan, are either dead, dying, retired, defeated, or just plain scorned for having been able to work with those with whom they might have disagreed for the national good.

I used to always be an optimist, but events in the years since 9-11 have left me thinking that our nation and the world are likely careening toward a cataclysm that could well make the horrors of both WWI and WWII look like a day at the beach.

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