Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Compromise shouldn't be a no-no

An underlying threat runs through much Republican campaign rhetoric. The re-election of President Barack Obama will result in a united opposition unwilling to compromise on any issue.

After tea party member Richard Murdock defeated longtime Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, he wasn't even slightly kidding when he told an interviewer that the only bipartisanship, the only compromise, that he's interested in will come only when the Democrats give up and join with the Republicans.

Compromise is the essence of, and is necessary for, the survival of any democracy, but the current political climate, marked by an admittedly quirky electorate, is dominated by an aggressive and dangerous unwillingness to do so.

Obama's political base has often been furious at him for "giving everything away" even before negotiations began, all in the name of compromise. Lugar lost his party's primaries because he was willing to work with the opposition.

Lugar's mortal sin was that he voted with the Democrats to confirm the president's Supreme Court nominees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The constitutional role of the Senate is to give advice and consent, not to name the justices. It was in that spirit, Lugar said, that he voted to approve the choice. Without a spirit of compromise, it's quite possible that the Senate could simply refuse to confirm anyone for the next vacancy on court, thereby nullifying the president's constitutional authority to make appointments.

The tactics of obstruction are evident. Filibuster everything. Use arcane Senate rules to stall, hamper and delay. Stop all nominees to the federal bench and to regulatory agencies. Threaten to bring down the entire financial standing of the U.S.

Human beings are fully capable of vehemently supporting two or more contradictory ideas at the same time. According to the Pew Research Center, while three in four voters like leaders who are willing to compromise, in the same survey two-thirds also say they like politicians who stick to their positions, even if unpopular.

Historically, Americans have shown a stubbornly moderate streak, unwilling to back those who would refuse to be about the business of compromise once an election is over. We hope they vote that way this year as well.

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