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I used to be a lot more optimistic about politics. I used to think that one man could change the political culture in Washington, D.C.

On Nov. 4, 2008, I was in Chicago’s Grant Park chanting “Yes We Can” as President Barack Obama delivered his victory speech before an estimated crowd of 240,000. I was one of millions of Americans, young and old, who believed in the “Change” Obama had campaigned for.

Four years later, I find a lot less change has occurred than I had hoped for. Governor Mitt Romney has used this to his advantage, painting Obama as a failure. What Romney neglects to mention is that the president isn’t the man making legislation. While the president can propose an agenda and use the bully pulpit to ask for support, he cannot introduce, construct, or pass legislation in Congress. That is up to 100 senators and 435 representatives. At least in theory.

The problem is that Congress has been plagued by gridlock for the past four years. Bills on bills on bills brought before Congress have stalled. As the minority during Obama’s presidency, conservative congressmen have been the major culprits of stalling tactics — most notably in the form of filibusters in the Senate. Yet gridlock is a problem affecting both major parties. I don’t see much of an effort on the part of either republicans or democrats to consider the other side. It seems like “cooperation” and “compromise” have been wiped from the vocabularies of congressmen.

And this campaign makes me think that the gridlock is only going to get worse. Look at the way Obama and Romney acted during the debates; it was nothing more than a shouting match over who’s better. Sometimes the debates got so tense I honestly thought somebody might get punched. There were few, if any, concessions to the other side. Instead, each candidate focused on bashing his opponent.

How can republicans and democrats continue to engage in metaphorical fist fights while ordinary Americans everywhere are struggling to find jobs, pay for education, acquire health care and attempt to live the lives they want for themselves and their families?

I get it. Conservatives and liberals fundamentally disagree on almost all major issues. No one wants to give in to the other side. Not to mention, it isn’t easy to change a congressman’s mind on the other side of the political spectrum when that congressman could be getting pumped with money from special interests and be forced to tow the party line.

But that doesn’t mean that some sort of compromise is out of the question. When a group of people disagree, they don’t just sit there and hope for something to happen. They take action. They work out a deal.

Thinking really hard about legislation being passed while you sit around on the House or Senate floor is not going to get that legislation passed. Bitching about the other party being “obstructionist” or “tax-and-spend” or “out of touch” doesn’t do anything but widen the gap between the left and the right.

If two groups of dramatic middle school girls are arguing over who gets to go first in the lunch line, it only ends up with everyone waiting an extra five minutes before anyone gets a meal. If they simply alternated groups in line, both groups would end up getting their lunch more quickly and no one would go hungry.

I know compromise isn’t exactly ideal. Like the middle school girls, neither party will come out completely satisfied. Major change won’t happen quickly this way. Yet small steps forward are better than no steps at all.

Tossing the blame back and forth from election to election, depending on who controls Congress, won’t do a damn thing but make everyone’s arms sore.

Scantlen is a member of the class of 2015.

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