By Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of the AVMA GRD
On February 28, 2012, Maine Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) announced that she would not seek reelection this year. This decision came as a surprise to many Republicans, who counted on her reelection to help them regain the Senate majority in November. Snowe has been in the Senate for seventeen years, and is one of the few Members of Congress willing to reach across the aisle to seek compromise to get legislation passed.
In a Washington Post Op-Ed, Snowe lamented about "the dysfunction and political polarization" in the modern day Senate, and felt that the Senate was not living up to what the Founding Fathers had envisioned. Senator Snowe's retirement will strengthen the polarization in the Senate, where members seem more interested in political brinkmanship and partisan politics then in legislating to solve our nation's serious problems.
This is not limited to the Senate, and it is also not limited to a specific party. The Blue Dog Coalition, a group of conservative Democrats, has seen its numbers dwindle from 54 members in 111th Congress to 24 members in the 112th Congress. Blue Dog's often sought compromise between the more liberal base of their party and the conservative base of the Republican Party.
Why discuss this?? Politics is politics! The day after Snowe retired, I heard one Republican radio commentator express elation that she had retired because she was a "Republican In Name Only" (RINO), and was not the partisan Republican that he felt the party needed. But this is not how we solve problems. Problems are solved by reaching across the divide to find common ground, and using this common ground to gain consensus. To pass legislation, everyone does not get exactly what they want, and often good legislation is legislation that both parties' don't like because it requires them to compromise.
There are many individuals who would prefer that Congress not pass any laws and "further screw things up." But at this point, our nation's problems are too deep to take this point of view. We need respectful politicians who will listen to all sides and work across the political divide to solve these serious issues.
What does this mean for the profession? Like our country, the profession is facing some serious challenges: concern about the economics of the profession, including supply and demand issues; reduced patient visits; stagnant revenue growth; growing student debt; depressed salaries; changing demographics; lack of racial diversity; and veterinary schools struggling to meet the budgetary challenges of the 21st century, to name a few. To address these issues, the AVMA has started to dialogue with groups like Association of American Veterinary Colleges, American Animal Hospital Association, allied groups, stakeholder partners and our members. Which is the best way forward? Do we want to be like our dysfunctional Congress—get on opposite sides, refuse to compromise and seek solutions to the issues facing the profession, then watch as the profession implodes, taking with it future generations of veterinarians and imperiling both animal and human health? Or, do we want to respectfully work together, find areas of common ground, compromise with each other, and begin to address these issues? You decide......