Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Reaction: Calls for Compromise

After any election that changes the balance of power there is the inevitable call from both sides to compromise and work together to "get things done". There are a number of problems with this mentality that this election should have highlighted to the powers that be:

1. "Getting things done" means different things to different groups. To liberals, it means using government to fix perceived problems. To conservatives (especially in this election cycle) it means reigning in government which they perceive as the problem. There is something to be said for not getting things done if what is being done is unpalatable. The idea that these two philosophies can be easily reconciled is laughable.

2. Compromise doesn't just mean meeting in the middle. If someone were to say to you, "I would like to punch you in the gut ten times," you would tell them to get lost (or something more colorful). If the person came back and said, " OK, how about I only punch you in the gut five times," your answer wouldn't change. You find getting punched unacceptable. It doesn't matter how many times, or where you would get hit, you won't budge. This is how many people (especially in the current polarized situation) feel about politics. A conservative doesn't want the government involved in health care at all, so a liberal offering to remove the "public option" to sweeten the deal is not compromise.

3. Compromise is about fine tuning details to appeal to multiple groups, not adjusting ideology. At the end of the day, liberals and conservatives are going to agree on very little in terms of broad sweeping policies. The Democrats unilaterally enacted the health care overhaul despite polling showing that the people didn't want it. The people have spoken and removed the Democrats from power as a fairly clear signal that they did not approve of what had been done. If the Democrats had unilaterally pushed something through that Americans accepted in principle, but had some quirks to be worked out, there would not have been 60 House seats changing hands. Voters don't mind a little haggling over details, but they don't want to compromise on their principles.

4. Compromise is just another way of saying "maintain the establishment". Much like children, politicians don't like change. As power switches between parties, very little changes. The two "compromise" with each other and merge toward the middle. During the next election, voters decide that they don't like what is happening, so they vote to put the other party in power. Yet again the parties merely meet in the middle and nothing really changes. They fail to understand that voters don't like the middle. If they did, power wouldn't change hands so frequently. You can't please everyone and when you try you end up with an approval rating of less than 25%. The Tea Party is a prime example of the dissatisfaction with the status quo. Why have a vote if you're just going to do something that nobody likes? What's the point of having a majority if the majority doesn't rule?

5. What constitutes compromise is decided by the party in power. Congress still has not passed a budget. This is perhaps one of the few things where meaningful compromise is achievable. For example, both parties agree that the DOT needs money to operate. How much money is certainly up for debate as there is disagreement as to just what that money is needed for, but the at the end of the day the government has to be funded and a consensus reached (or pushed through unilaterally). Instead, Congress has wasted time on stimulus spending, health care reform and other projects favored by the liberals. The liberals were in power, they got to set the bar for what would be compromised on. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, it is just important to realize that "compromise" is not some warm fuzzy activity where everyone is on the same page and coming from the same place.

6. True compromise is nearly impossible in a two party system. The two parties represent (in theory) polar opposites. There is rarely going to be an issue on which polar opposites can agree. If there were different degrees of conservative and liberal there could be compromises reached that might appeal to segments of each group. However, the desire to maintain "party unity" in order to maintain power generally keeps members of Congress on their respective sides of the aisle except when they come together on something that benefits the establishment without regard for what their party supposedly stands for.

No comments:

Post a Comment