Mike Kueber's Blog

November 4, 2012

Compromise

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 3:59 am
Tags: ,

Most American voters are sick of the political deadlock in Washington, D.C., and the Democrats have been successful in blaming Republicans for the situation.  A recent column by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne is typical of their argument:

  • Democrats, a more moderate and diverse party, believe in compromise far more than Republicans do.  While polls find that six in 10 Democrats regard themselves as moderate or conservative, nearly three-quarters of Republicans say they are conservative. And tea-party Republicans, who loom so large in primaries, are especially averse to giving any ground.  Moreover, Democrats still have a positive view of government and regard trade-offs between taxes and spending as a normal part of governing. Republicans care most about reducing government’s size and in cutting taxes. They’re prepared to accept standoffs and crises to reach those goals.   

The last sentence in Dionne’s argument is really the crux of the matter – i.e., a deadlock results in no action.  Depending on the situation, Republicans sometimes conclude that taking no action is better than agreeing to a compromise.  The best example of the Republican preference for deadlock is illegal immigration.  Democrats insist on creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, while Republicans maintain that no illegal immigrant shall profit from their illegal act.  The resulting dysfunction is that illegal immigrants remain illegal, but the Democratic administration selectively enforces the law. 

Another example of the Republican preference for deadlock concerns increased taxes.  The TEA Party stands for “taxed enough already,” and for several years it has been almost impossible for a Republican to run for office without signing the Grover Norquist pledge for no new taxes.  The mainstream media has attempted to characterize this principled position as extremism, notably by asking a hypothetical question in a debate about a legislative compromise of $9 in cuts versus $1 in increased taxes. 

Unfortunately, the Republicans contributed to the public perception of unreasonableness when they pushed the country to the brink during negotiations to raise the debt ceiling.  In that situation, where maintaining the status quo is not an option, the Republicans should not have played a game of chicken with the Democrats in order to secure a better compromise.  Republicans are entitled to use non-democratic means, such as filibuster and super-majority requirements to achieve their objectives, especially if a deadlock is better than the compromise they are being offered.  But they should not threaten to see America hurt by deadlock.

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