Trying to Ignore the Silly Season

Posted on 6/25/2014 10:48:56 AM By Mark Collatz

In Washington, D.C., there is a term for that period of time just before elections—the Silly Season.  It’s a time when incumbents and challengers square off in what seems to be one endless round of charges and counter charges about who their opponent is or what they believe; they can range from the outrageous to the sublime. 25 or 30 years ago, the Silly Season usually kicked off about six weeks running up to the election, so there was generally a correlation between the increasing color of the fall foliage and the colorfulness of the rhetoric.

That’s not the case anymore.  The sniping starts early, sometimes 6 to 8 months in advance of an election, but a year is not unheard of. The carping isn’t always just from the opposition party. Special interest groups of all persuasions weigh in with letter writing campaigns, radio and newspaper ads and social media blitzes.  What this eventually creates is a bunker-style mentality for both Republicans and Democrats that discourages compromise and cooperation on all of the tough issues. Let’s face it—it is much easier to kick the can down the road, rather than to make a tough vote that might reward you with series of negative radio ads back home from the group whose ox you just gored.

Unfortunately, most of these cans getting kicked down road aren’t simply abstract political debates.  They represent real problems that call for real solutions that can’t be solved by merely offering up some rhetorical jujitsu on your opponent. Problems are solved by sitting down and engaging all sides in honest debate.  In the end, each person needs to be willing to give up something for the greater good of the country. 

I raise these points because ASC and our member companies such as Evans Adhesives, Henry Company, DAP, and Franklin International recently had the opportunity to participate in the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) 2014 Manufacturing Summit in Washington, D.C.  For 36 hours, we had the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the men and women who have the capability of getting this country moving again through smart and forward-thinking, legislation dealing with the likes of TSCA Reform, R&D tax incentives, the replacement of our aging infrastructure and the creation competitive workforce for the 21st Century.  We talked with a wide range Senators from both sides of the aisle from Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey to Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman of Ohio, to Chris Coons and Tom Carper of Delaware to Christopher Murphy of Connecticut, and Mark Warner of Virginia.  If there was one overlying message that we heard, it was that they need our help just as much we need theirs.

Our representatives—both Democrats and Republicans—need to know how some these issues related to environmental regulations, infrastructure needs, demands for well trained and educated workforce affect your operations.  They need to know that you can’t get your job done, if they can’t get their job done.  The need to know that there comes a time when working together through compromise is more important than scoring political points on Sunday morning talk shows if the United States is going get back to being the premier manufacturing country in the world.

One point that I heard continually throughout the Summit that really resonated with me was that whether you consider yourself a Democratic or Republican, it is important to understand and accept that neither side has all the right answers or is going to get everything that they want.  It seems to me that the manufacturing community already has a better understanding of that truth than maybe some of the other groups in the United States, and it is critical that you make your voice heard now, even as we get deeper into the Silly Season.

This is the first time that ASC has participated in an event such as this, and in the coming weeks, a group of our ASC leaders will be reviewing and (I expect) recommending a continuation of these proactive advocacy efforts. I would urge you now to begin thinking about joining us next year in reaching out to those members of the new 114th Congress.  Our country is at a crossroads when it comes to moving forward in world economic growth.  It is up to Congress to decide whether they want to begin making smart and insightful decisions that lead to a new era of American exceptionalism in manufacturing or whether they want to leave the U.S. industry to flounder as they continue on with their game of unproductive political one-upsmanship.

As a member of the manufacturing community, your passion for what you are trying to do with your individual companies, I believe, will help them to make an informed decision.  Who is with me?

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