Some political notions from Hells Canyon

Deep inside the steep walls of Hells Canyon, the sounds you are most likely to hear are the distant howl of a coyote, the screech of a golden eagle or the roar of the Snake River. But if you visit a certain ridge overlooking the canyon in early November and find yourself close to a particular hunting camp, you will hear the raucous sound of political debate reverberating through the hills.

My friends and I have been hunting deer and elk here for 25 years. We range in political persuasion from tea party extreme to moderates, a few independents and a couple of liberals, including me.

When I tell people who know my political bent about the group I hunt with, I usually get one of two responses: “Boy, you must not discuss politics!” or “How did you get involved with all those right-wingers?”

First of all, we are friends. And the truth is we discuss politics almost every day during our 10-day hunt and throughout the year for that matter. We have widely divergent views about the role of government, particularly when it comes to social issues, less so when it comes to health care, Social Security, Medicare, education, energy, defense, taxes and our national debt.

Regardless of the issue, we always seem able to agree on a solution and a path forward. We are dumbfounded that Congress cannot do the same.

We are not so naive to think that decision-making at the nation’s capital is the same as making them around a campfire, nor do we hold the electorate blameless for constantly wanting it both ways: good governance and all its benefits at no cost.

But Congress is elected and paid by us to make decisions that balance what we need and want with what we can pay for, and our lawmakers are failing. One thing all Americans will agree on is, this is one place where failure is not an option.

No Labels, founded in 2010 is an organization dedicated to ending partisan gridlock. It is developing reforms that will be presented to Congress when it convenes after the first of the year. It includes such proposals as “No Budget, No Pay” legislation that would dock legislators every day they fail to pass a budget on time. It would require them to show up to work at least five days a week and would end the use of filibusters to prevent a bill from reaching the Senate floor for debate. It includes other reforms designed to make Congress more effective and work together.

It won’t solve all of the problems but it looks like a good start.

In John F. Kennedy’s book, “Profiles in Courage,” we are reminded that we can compromise on the issues without compromising our principles. Compromise does not mean cowardice. Our democracy is strong and promising to people around the world not because of our ideals but because of our ability to compromise.

As Henry Clay said, “Compromise is the cement that holds this republic together.”