It is just moments since the historic inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States so it seems extra fitting to write a bit about politics here.
Make no mistake. This young president has plenty of tough sledding ahead of him, what with a sinking economy to right, a worldwide terrorism threat to keep thwarting, and two foreign wars to prosecute, not to mention other pressing agenda items like energy security and global warming. The only way he will make it down any of the hills before him will be with the American public and their elected representatives pulling for him. And the only way to ensure that is for him to keep campaigning for everyone's support in the most non-partisan manner possible.
Partisanship, of course, won't go away. Nor should it. It is the lifeblood of the unique two-party political system that emerged early on in our history and has served this nation remarkably well. What should go away — and I see signs of that happening — is the unbending, nasty- to-the-point-of-criminal hyper-partisanship that infected too much of our body politic on the national level going back roughly 15 years.
I can't speak for the whole country, but I am exceedingly grateful and proud that the Connecticut town (if you can call a place with 60,000 or so residents a “town”!) in which I live suffers not at all from the sick and sad level of partisanship that automatically brands one's political opponents as enemies if not the devil incarnate.
The higher plane at which politics are played in my not-so-little town make it enjoyable and rewarding for me to serve as one of the many unpaid elected officials who give their spare time and energies to help govern the town along with its full-time paid chief executive and the army of town employees.
What do I get out of it? An education on how things get done, for starters, including a much earlier warning — and fuller view — of things that will impact me personally than I'd ever get from reading the local newspapers, despite the fine job all three local weeklies and regional daily do covering the town.
And why do I bring all this up here anyhow? All sorts of stuff that impacts trucking is influenced by politics — and from the local to the state, regional, national and even international level. Take tolls as one example. Years ago, here in Connecticut, they did away with all highway tolls. Sadly, the main impetus was a series of fiery and deadly truck crashes into toll booths. Today, of course, no one wants tolls — even though electronics can do away with the safety concerns of plazas — including me and every trucker and motorist you can find. But to a state government wallowing in a sea of red ink, those quarters and dollars look like mighty attractive lifesavers.
And where did I hear the tolls might be coming back? Not in the newspaper or on TV — or on a web site I might add to all those young folk out there so fond of saying they “get all their news from the Internet.”
Nope, heard it first and plain as day at one of the local monthly meetings of the political party I belong to, at which one of our State House of Representative members gave a head's up on legislative issues.
I will shut up now about politics — but not without suggesting we all keep in mind that a cornerstone of the President's proposed economic recovery plan is to invest some $60 billion to repair roads and bridges and complete other infrastructure projects over the next ten years. What gets done with those funds can be influenced by everyone in trucking who keeps their eyes and ears open to governmental action at every level and, above all, are willing to express their views on this and every other important issue to the politicians who serve all of us in this great land of ours.