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Cutting Political Gridlock

As the ancient story goes, whoever could untie the Gordian knot would become ruler of Asia. People tried for years without success, until one day Alexander the Great cut it with his sword and went on to conquer the known world.

Today, Washington is tied up in a Gordian knot of political gridlock. While Americans struggle to pay for health care, save for the future, care for kids and aging parents and achieve financial security, political leaders have become more polarized and less effective. Partisanship has trumped leadership. Gaining political advantage has become more important than solving the nation's problems.

I hear mounting frustration from AARP members and others across the country: "Why can't the politicians in Washington get together to solve problems we face every day?" As a governor recently told Congress, "Do something. Anything. Move."

Some say our politicians lack political courage. But that's not exactly it. They have plenty of courage to fight each other. But they lack the courage to put partisanship aside and work for the good of the country.

As AARP members, we have the power to cut this Gordian knot, and now's the time. We're entering an important year that will determine whether our kids and grandkids have a shot at the American dream. We don't need Alexander's sword; we have something more powerful-our voices and our votes. We started the Divided We Fail movement to unite the millions of Americans who are tired of letting Washington gridlock stand in the way of affordable, quality health care and lifetime financial security. We represent all political persuasions, big business and small, union workers, retirees, people of all faiths-Americans of all kinds and from every state in the union.

By uniting behind Divided We Fail, we can work for a common cause: breaking through the partisan stalemate and getting our political "leaders" to actually lead. This unity, plus our own personal striving for ourselves and our families, is how people can achieve their personal dreams.

We and our Divided We Fail partners are taking this message to elected officials and candidates all across the country to demand answers and action. We're armed with surveys indicating that candidates' proposals to fix health care and provide opportunities for long-term security will be important factors in voters' choices. And we're educating voters about the candidates' positions on these issues and their willingness to work in a bipartisan manner to solve them.

To cut the gridlock, we must do more than demand action from our leaders. We must act ourselves. Voters 50 and older will be key to the 2008 elections, just as they were in 2006, when 52 percent of all those who voted were 50-plus, and 25 percent were AARP members. Moreover, they tend to know the issues. Our goal for 2008 is for all our members to vote, based on the knowledge of the candidates' views and their willingness to work collaboratively on the nation's problems.

This year we are also celebrating AARP's 50th anniversary. Our founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, cut a Gordian knot by helping older people buy health insurance. Today, with nearly 40 million members, we have more relevance, more responsibility and more to do than ever. By using our voices and votes to cut through political gridlock, we can give the country a gift that will last for generations to come.

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