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Well that didn’t take long. Just one day into the general election Randy Bryce, Democratic candidate for the 1st District House seat, debased the political dialogue to its lowest, most degrading level: insulting infantile nicknames (i.e., Lyin' Bryan) that disgust millions of Americans. To Mr. Bryce: Shame on you. First District voters insist that you bring up the debate at least one notch — which would be to the level of useless political pablum. That is where you tell us your list of unrealistic Democratic measures that will never become law (free health care, free college, abolish ICE, and so forth), and then list the equally unrealistic Republican priorities that you oppose and your opponent favors (cut government, taxes, regulation, welfare, and so forth).

To Mr. Steil: Well done for not (so far) descending to the puerile level that Mr. Bryce has occupied. But 1st District voters insist on more. In addition to the Republican creed listed above, you’ve made vague noises about being a problem-solver, seeking process-driven solutions, and needing more open honest debate on the floor of the House. That’s a start. But it’s not enough.

Now, we want to hear you get specific and realistic. Tell us that you know the reality of the situation: that the current House rules make it nearly impossible for any individual congressperson — especially a freshman or minority member — to get any bill to committee or the floor for debate and a vote. That the speaker and party leadership have hijacked the House, rendering most committees largely inactive, forbidding amendments and insisting members vote on bills they haven’t had time to read. That the only way for you — or for the House in general — to get out of this hyperpartisan gridlock is to fundamentally change the rules, as outlined in the Break the Gridlock package proposed by the 24 Republican and 24 Democratic members of the House Problem Solvers Caucus. Then, pledge that you will sign the Break the Gridlock Pledge, and join the Problem Solvers Caucus.

I think you know these realities already, but if you don’t, call any freshman member and they will confirm.

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To journalists and citizens: It’s well past time to insist that our candidates speak frankly and honestly about the toxic reality of the current hyperpartisan political environment. It’s no longer enough to ask the usual laundry list of questions like “where do you stand on immigration…health care…the deficit.” What we need to know is: “How will you be effective given the current House gridlock? Will you sign the Break the Gridlock Pledge? Will you join the Problem Solvers Caucus, and reach across the aisle to find lasting solutions to the country’s many and serious problems, that will be supported by a majority of the population?” If every journalist, and every debate moderator and attendee, and every voter who opens their door to a canvasser asks these specific questions, Congress has a chance to get out of the current swamp and begin to serve citizens.

Marty Finnegan, of Twin Lakes, resides in Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District. He does international business and non-profit work and is the Wisconsin state leader for No Labels, a growing national network of Democrats, Republicans and independents who believe that holding principled political beliefs does not require an all-or-nothing approach to governing the country.

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