“This is not a time for compromise, and I can tell you that we will not compromise on our principles.”
The quote comes from Republican House minority leader and would-be speaker John Boehner. He was talking on Sean Hannity’s radio program specifically about right-wing pipe dreams of overturning President Barack Obama’s history-making health-care reform legislation. But his statement encapsulates what has gone so wrong with American politics these days.
As has been said many times before (so many times, in fact, that the quote’s originator seem to have been forgotten), politics is the art of compromise. Or, to quote former President Gerald Ford, “Compromise is the oil that makes governments go.” Politicians are supposed to legislate for the benefit of all, not only for the people who elected them from a specific region, or the most wild-haired members of the voting public. This great responsibility requires that the office holders demonstrate common sense and pragmatism, as well as diplomatic and arm-twisting skills, in order to craft legislation that benefits the most people possible. What’s so ridiculous about the above remark from Ohioan Boehner (who, admittedly, has never been the sharpest knife in the drawer), and other similar declarations from right-wing extremists hoping to win seats in the next U.S. Congress, is that they fail to realize that without compromise, a democratic government does not work. Of course it’s important to stand up for one’s principles. But it’s vital, as well, for officeholders to acknowledge that the business of national governance is too important to be sacrificed before the hissy fits of obdurate politicos who insist that everything has to work on their terms, or not at all.
Looking over the current U.S. political scene, I see far too many candidates who are unprepared for working with their fellow legislators to overcome the nation’s longstanding economic and social ills. The Republican Party--once the home of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt--has been taken over by its most radical, hateful fringe, the “tea party” cultists, who want to privatize and kill Social Security; get the government completely out of the health-care business (which would mean terminating Medicare and Medicaid) and put your long-term health completely in the hands of bottom-line-driven private insurers; blithely ignore global-warming warnings until it’s too late to avoid disaster; do away with the Department of Education; impeach President Obama (if only to satisfy those ridiculous “Birthers,” who propagate lies about his not having been born in the United States)--and if the president and Democrats don’t let them have their own baby way, they’re fully prepared to shut down the U.S. government.
Clearly, there are no longer adults in power in the GOP.
This morning I exercised one of my foremost rights as a citizen of the United States: I filled out and mailed off my midterm election ballot. And nowhere on that ballot did I vote for a Republican, because I no longer trust them--I don’t trust them to act in my best interest, rather than their own or the interests of their loudest-screaming right-wing backers; I don’t trust them to maintain programs such as Social Security and Medicare that work well and have provided the foundation of hope for American seniors; I don’t trust them to respect constitutional prohibitions against establishing a national religion and persecuting the irreligious; I don’t trust them to work with the president to strengthen the U.S. economy (Republicans spent eight years under George W. Bush weakening the economy through wasteful spending and an aversion to business regulation--why would I be stupid enough to believe they’d do anything different now?); I don’t trust them not to be corrupted further by their too-cozy association with Big Business; and I don’t trust them one iota to compromise when compromise is necessary to pass legislation that would boost the nation’s well-being or maintain America’s thoughtful leadership in the world.
Even as four-fifths of Americans polled “say they want Republicans and Democrats to work together to get things done, as opposed to rigidly sticking to principles,” Boehner and his ideological cronies insist they will not cooperate. Not now, not ever. If there’s any silver lining to be found in this mess, it comes from remembering that the GOP of Newt Gingrich’s era said pretty much the same thing--and look at how soundly their shenanigans were rejected. If, as political pundits predict, Republicans win control of the U.S. House of Representatives on November 2, then I suspect we’re in for a repeat of the politically divisive 1990s. The efforts of the radical-right to impose their out-of-the-mainstream agenda on the country will eventually be scorned by a majority of Americans, and President Obama will benefit (just as President Bill Clinton did before him), because he will be the adult in the room who most publicly stands up against political fanaticism.
I voted today because I recognize what’s at stake in this election. What are you waiting for?
READ MORE: “GOP Leaders Tell Obama: There Will Be ‘No Compromise,’” by George Zornick (Think Progress); “Why the GOP’s Gains Are Built on a Sham,” by Justin Gardner (Donklephant); READ MORE: “Three Unorthodox Ways Obama Can Fix the Economy--Even with a Republican Congress,” by Noam Scheiber (The New Republic).