13th District Candidates: Political Gridlock Gone Too Far
By Jim Meadows
At a time when Congress cannot seem to agree on how the federal government should approach the nation’s problems, the candidates running in Illinois' 13th Congressional District all say that the disagreement among lawmakers has gone too far.
"I think it’s obviously the case that we are stagnated by opposition," said Independent candidate John Hartman of Edwardsville. "What we used to have in Washington --- even not that long ago, in the era of Bob Michel, for example in the House – it was the country first, and kind of my political orthodoxy or my party orthodoxy second. … and we’ve developed norms that are contrary to that.
On his campaign website, Hartman argues that political gridlock based on conflict between the two major parties keeps government from considering alternative solutions from independents like him. But Hartman’s not the only candidate in the race complaining about gridlock.
"I agree that American has become too polarized," said Taylorville Republican Rodney Davis.
Davis said he would compromise to get his ideas implemented.
"You need somebody who’s not just going to go out to Washington and vote the way that their party leaders tell them to," Davis said. "You need somebody who’s going to go out there with ideas, with plans, like I have, to be able to provide that leadership from Day One, and work with Democrats and Republicans."
In a similar vein, Democratic candidate David Gill of Bloomington said there is a “desperate” need for compromise in Congress in order to get anything done.
"I might talk about Medicare-For-All being the solution that brings us far more health and far more wealth," Gill said. "But if I can’t convince people that overnight, then maybe I have to take half a loaf and see a public option, see the extension of Medicare to people 55-to-65, and let our businesses see the wealth that that brings us, by opening up. Sometimes things have to be done in step-wise fashion, and I recognize that."
The three 13th District candidates share similar starting points when asked to define the essential work of government.
Gill mentions a strong military and regulating such things as food safety.
Davis lists a strong national defense and investing in infrastructure.
Hartman emphasizes maintaining a sound justice system. He also prefers smaller government. Among the things Hartman would remove -- tax credits.
"I think that the tax credits that we provide are generally misplaced, and reflect lobbying efforts in Washington," Hartman said. "A basic tax credit is back door spending. Instead of sending a check to a company, you just, say, send me a lesser check in your taxes."
Gill has a list of things he thinks the federal government should not be involved with --- including subsidies for oil and gas companies and the U-S military presence in Afghanistan. But Gill said his Medicare-For-All proposal is just the thing that federal government should be doing, to ensure wider access to healthcare --- the same way that public schools ensure access to education.
"Because Uncle Sam isn’t taking care of senior citizens in this country to make money, Uncle Sam is able to run things in a more cost-effective manner than the Blue Cross/Blue Shields of the world," Gill said. "We don’t disallow private education. There’s still plenty of private schools out there. There can be private health insurance, but I think Uncle Sam can make available a more cost-effective alternative for people in those areas."
In contrast, Davis said Congress should turn away from what he sees as government-run health care, and remake the regulatory environment of the Obama administration, which he accuses of hindering job creation.
"I intend to go to Washington and look at every single regulatory issue, make sure that we keep America safe and provide that regulatory environment that we need, but also ensure that there’s a cost-benefit analysis to where it doesn’t impact America’s ability to remain the country that we know it is," Davis said.
The candidates’ views on government’s basic role in society provide background for their proposals on specific issues. It will be up to voters to choose which candidate best matches their own principles, and which they think is most likely to live up to them, once elected.