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Vol 106 / Issue 33 - 34

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The Monitor's View T o reduce the political gridlock in Washington, you have to start some- where. A new report from the Bipar- tisan Policy Center attempts to do just that. It offers up a list of achievable steps to help lawmakers begin to work together again. The stalemate in the nation's capital is not business as usual. Members of the commission, many of whom are former members of Congress from both parties, can attest that the political climate today is the harshest in memory. Commission co-chairman Olympia Snowe, a former Republican senator from Maine, declined to run for reelection in 2012 because of a hostile atmosphere that made working across the aisle, a Senate tradition, nearly impossible. Root of the divide: voters themselves Today's politicians shouldn't bear all the blame, however. Polls show Americans have become more deeply divided along ideo- logical and party lines and more skeptical that those who represent the other party are acting in good faith. They are more likely to stay in social "silos" in which their friends share their political views. Those with strongly held positions on the left or right are also among the most active in participating in the political process, in - cluding being more likely to vote in primary elections. Politicians ignore these strongly ideological voices at their political peril. It's appropriate, then, that the commis- sion includes recommendations for what citizens themselves can do to change the environment, as well as state governments. After 18 months of forums and delib- erations the 29 members of the Center's Commission on Political Reform offered this range of recommendations: •The Senate should end the use of fli- busters that keep bills from even being de- bated on the foor. But it also should permit the minority party to have more opportuni- ties to offer amendments to bills. •The House and Senate should synchro- nize their schedules so that they are in ses- sion at the same time, making cooperation easier. •States should take a bipartisan ap- proach to the once-a-decade task of redraw- ing congressional districts. Districts should not be twisted into strange geographical shapes to favor one party over another. •Primary elections, not party-run cau- cuses or conventions, should determine each party's candidates. They should be held nationwide on a single date in June. •Both parties should commit to increas- ing the turnout for primary elections, with a goal of 30 percent of eligible voters by 2020 and 35 percent in 2026. •Finally, all post-high-school-age Ameri- cans should give one year of service to their country, either in the military, civilian pro- grams such as AmeriCorps, or nonproft groups that serve those in need. This recom- mendation may help engage young Ameri- cans, many of whom are turned off by Wash- ington's "my way or no way" stalemate. History of working together The US's history is one of Americans working together to fnd common ground and do the nation's business. These recom- mendations are a reminder that steps are needed now to begin to restore a function- ing democracy. The challenge is to keep the topic in public thought beyond a single 24- hour news cycle. "We are all determined ... to make sure [the report] doesn't gather dust, sitting in a bookcase," Senator Snowe says. r A few icebreakers to warm up Washington's frozen politics A federal appeals board ruled last month that the name of the profes- sional football team in the nation's capital, the Washington Redskins, was dis- paraging to native Americans. The name is no longer entitled to trademark status. The National Football League (NFL) team will appeal, and even if the ruling is eventually upheld, it may take years to go into effect. The decision is a narrow one but it makes a crucial point: Using a word for Indians for commercial purposes can be an ethnic slur. The team and the NFL must eventually realize it has to go. In sports, words matter. Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught in April making racist remarks about Afri - can-Americans. The resulting controversy made him anathema to the National Bas- ketball Association (NBA) and has plunged him into a furious legal battle. Defning ofensive terms Today's dictionaries routinely cite "redskin" as an outdated and offensive term. In recent years, numerous high school and college teams whose names were terms for native Americans have changed them. Pres- ident Obama and half the US Senate have expressed a desire to see the Washington team change its name. The Washington team can make a case that it wants to protect a lucrative trade - mark. The team has been valued at $1.7 billion, making it the third most valuable franchise in the NFL. By being located in Washington it will always be one of the most visible NFL teams. And there is precedent. Washington's NBA team long ago decided that its name at the time, the Bullets, was an inappropriate moniker to represent the team and city. The team is now called the Wizards. A name change could be lucrative Redskins owner Daniel Snyder says he'll never change his team's name. But a new name could actually provide a fnancial bo- nanza. With a change, souvenirs and jerseys with the Redskins logo would become col- lectors' items and sell out quickly. Then fans would need to purchase T-shirts, pennants, blankets, and other paraphernalia with the new team logo. In its trademark decision, a patent court turned up the heat on the NFL and the Washington team. But it will take more persistent public pressure before they see change as in their own best interests. r Word choices in sports can send wrong message AP THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY | JuLY 7 & 14, 2014 33

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