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Senior Correspondent

If you work your way though the news releases, it seems clear — even to those of us without degrees in economics — that Standard & Poor's downgrading the nation’s credit rating is based on the belief that Washington can no longer be trusted to act in the best interests of the nation and the world. Well, duh, get in line. Polls recently reported in the New York Times place the “post debt-ceiling debacle” disapproval rating of Congress at 82 percent.

Perhaps it is time to something unheard of, something really radical, something transformative — way outside the box. Wait! Wait! I’ve got it! Let’s reward cooperation! Think about it for a moment. Wasn’t that how we were raised? Isn’t that what we teach our children? Play nice? Share your cookies? Nobody likes a bully? Robert Fulghum may have said it best in the title of his bestseller: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Why is it then that our politicians seem to be more in tune with the cultural sensibilities of prison gangs?

And what do I know about prison gangs? Come on now, I watch the National Geographic Channel. (How did that happen anyhow? What happened to all the animals? But I digress.) The point is this, prison gangs serve only the interest of their own inflexible, xenophobic constituency; and they protect those interests through violence and intimidation. Fraternize with “the other” and you may well find yourself bleeding in the hallway, or worse. Sounds a lot like what we have been hearing out of Washington for the last decade or so, and increasingly from Statehouses across the nation: Reach across the aisle and you will get your hand chopped off.

And who does that benefit? According to the conservative bean counters at Standard & Poor’s, nobody. Predictably our “leaders” are already blaming those on the “other side” of the aisle for the downgrade. Who do they think they represent? The Aryan Brotherhood? La Nuestra Familia? 415 KUMI? When did this whole “my way or the highway” mentality enter mainstream politics? When did protecting a shrinking, radicalized, “base” come to trump the good of the nation? If you think about it, “old political warhorses” like Clinton, Bush 1, Bob Dole, and Gerald Ford (as represented in Betty Ford’s memorial service) seem more than a little embarrassed by the offensive behavior of their political heirs. Who’d a’thunk it?

If I were younger, and angrier, and had more money I would start a new political party called The AVCD: Associated Victims of Collateral Damage. The idea is that while the prison gangs that currently have a stranglehold on any meaningful compromise in Congress throw shivs at each other, the nation gets blasted by the back draft. We are the collateral damage in their petty wars.

But I am older, more prone to seek calm than conflict, and have no expendable resources to speak of. So what I am going to do is this: before each election, at all levels, I am going to research the voting record of all the candidates. I will pull the lever for the individual — regardless of party — who has shown the greatest evidence of compromise. I will support the candidate most inclined to reach across the aisle, who behaves least like a bully, who shares their cookies, who plays nice. Who acts for the greater good, beyond the dictates of party affiliation. Who, come to think of it, fosters harmony, enables beauty and opposes harm. And I will email them, and their opponents, and inform them of how I voted, and why. Talk about revolutionary. I suggest you join me.

Yours for the AVCD.

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