In a post-election editorial (“Our View: Republicans win chance to set Maine’s agenda,” Nov. 6), the Press Herald suggested, rather wistfully, I thought, that our politicians should work together in a bipartisan manner. I hope so, too; however, the cynic in me responds, “When pigs fly.”

Only the most naive of us expect that Republicans and Democrats are now going to behave in a collegial fashion toward each other. But a legislative system often described by such words as “impasse” and “gridlock,” whose representatives often behave like a bunch of petulant children fighting on the school playground, does not serve you or me.

There are lessons in civility that both parties might learn.

Partisan Democrats could recognize that not all conservatives are half-crazed and occupy a lower position on the food chain. Most thoughtful conservatives are people who no longer recognize their country in terms they understand and who are determined to prevent government from interfering in the private sector and individuals’ lives. This is hardly a treasonous position.

Too many extreme Republicans operate in my-way-or-the-highway, apocalyptic terms and dismiss Democrats as enemies of all that is traditionally American. Many Democrats genuinely and thoughtfully support the right of everyone to jobs, a reasonable social safety net (including health care) and a shot at the American dream. These opinions are not un-American.

This partisan impasse is serious business: Most failures of democracies in history were failures of leadership to control political extremists. The key to controlling extreme partisanship in both Augusta and Washington today is party leadership.

Only leaders can lower the temperature of the debate. Only they can remind their extremist colleagues that most Americans are centrists who respond positively to legislative decisions that occupy a reasonable and thoughtful middle ground. These leaders include the president, majority and minority party leadership – and, yes, governors.

Call me naive. And hopeful.