Editorial Board

Washington Can Solve Voter Anger

Front-runners.

Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Democratic and Republican party elites have found common ground: panic over what happened Tuesday in New Hampshire. For an antidote to their anxiety, they might consider changing the way they do business in Washington.

Voters in both major parties are demanding something, anything different from the dreary gridlock and acrimony that they've known for much of the past decade. Yet Washington appears impervious to the tremors rattling the presidential campaign.

President Barack Obama presented his $4.1 trillion budget to Congress on Tuesday, where it was met with the usual verdict: dead on arrival.

The budget, which fleshes out Democratic priorities, is largely a symbolic exercise, since the White House and Congress struck a two-year spending deal last fall. Republicans are struggling to produce their own budget, and they seem unlikely to realize the dream of returning to an orderly appropriations process. True, there will be no government shutdown, which is something to be grateful for. But it's hard to find much solace in Washington's stasis.

As usual, Washington's perpetual antagonists appear to have agreed not to cooperate. Curiously enough, comity was a main theme of the speech Obama delivered to the Illinois state legislature on Wednesday. "There are a lot of good proposals out there, and we have to work to find ones that can gain some bipartisan support," he said.

In fact, Obama and congressional leaders have shown the capacity to find common ground when it suits them -- as they did last fall when the spending deal came together. And Obama and House Speaker Paul Ryan, taken at their word, actually have more than a few issues on which they appear to have areas of agreement: criminal justice reform, drug addiction treatment, poverty, trade, vocational training, visas for highly skilled workers, even tax reform.

If mainstream politicians of both parties are truly alarmed by the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, and the vague and troubling -isms that each represents, they can address the root cause and actually do something to blunt the insurgents' advance: Make Washington work better.

To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net.