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Over 130 Ex-Congressmen Chide Candidates for "Sorry State of Affairs"

democrats and republicans and the battle for the House CBS/ AP

More than 130 former members of Congress have a message for the candidates in this year's midterm elections: tone down the hyper-partisan rhetoric, or the country will suffer.

"As partisan veterans, we join together to advocate a change in approach -- a change in rhetoric and tone that can lead to a focus on problem-solving," reads a letter from the newly-established "Former Members of Congress for Common Ground," comprised of both Democrats and Republicans. "This needs to begin now, especially as we head into the heat of the 2010 campaign."

The former congressmen, led by former Reps. John Porter (R-Ill.) and David Skaggs (D-Colo.), argue that partisanship has its merits, but that the divisiveness has gone too far.

"Congress appears gripped by zero-sum game partisanship," they wrote. "The goal often seems to be more to devastate the other side (the enemy, no longer the honorable adversary) than to find common ground to solve problems, much less to have a spirited but civil debate about how to do so."

Indeed, President Obama's leadership helped spur the Tea Party movement, which has rewarded Republican candidates unwilling to compromise on their ideological principles. Democrats, in turn, are busy slinging mud at their Republican opponents, casting them as too extreme. Senate Democrats have been hampered by a Republican-led filibuster on just about every bill that cannot win 60 votes of support.

Meanwhile, the signatories of today's letter pointed out, leaders in Congress must deal with challenges to the U.S. economy, defending democracy around the world, defending the U.S. from terrorism and challenges in countless other areas.

"Sadly, faced with those challenges, our political system has not shown itself to be up to the task," they wrote. "In a politically diverse but ultimately centrist nation, it is axiomatic that the country's major problems are going to have to be solved through compromises worked out between the parties."

The former lawmakers blamed partisans from both sides of the aisle, as well as the media, for the "sorry state of affairs."

"Members who far exceed the bounds of normal and respectful discourse are not viewed with shame but are lionized, treated as celebrities, rewarded with cable television appearances, and enlisted as magnets for campaign fund-raisers," they wrote. "Meanwhile, lawmakers who try to address problems and find workable solutions across party lines find themselves denigrated by an angry fringe of partisans, people unhappy that their representatives would even deign to work with the enemy."

CBSNews.com Special Report: Campaign 2010

Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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