Democrats in Congress say they want to work with Republicans to pass legislation important to all Americans. For their part, Republicans also say they want to work with Democrats.
What that means is that the party in power — at the moment the Democrats — will ram through its agenda without asking for or accepting input from their “friends” across the aisle. For its part, the minority party — Republicans at the moment — will try to block every initiative of the party in power.
When the power in the House and Senate switch — as it inevitably will — the party now in power will push its agenda without input from the newly minority party. And the minority party will pledge to thwart every effort by the majority party.
It doesn’t matter who is in the majority and who is in the minority. It is obvious neither side wants to do what is best for the people back home — the people, by the way, who elect our “representatives” to the House and Senate.
There was a time when Republican and Democratic politicians of all persuasions could work together, each side giving some in an effort to reach legislation palatable to both sides.
Of course, there was good reason to compromise. Community leader and political theorist Saul Alinsky said back in the day compromise was possible, “To the organizer, compromise is a key and beautiful word. It is always present in the pragmatics of operation. ... If you start with nothing, demand 100 percent, then compromise for 30 percent, you’re 30 percent ahead.”
What was true then is just as true today. In fact, in today’s highly charged political atmosphere, the ability — and the willingness — to work together may be more important than ever.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the current inability to compromise is the philosophical purge of both parties. There were liberal Democrats and conservative Democrats, with lots of folks in between. And there were conservative Republicans and liberal Republicans — yes, there were — and many good folks between both extremes. Each party had to compromise with itself and, thus, was more willing to compromise across the aisle.
Now, the parties have devolved into liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans. There is no room for moderates, no place for dissenting voices. There is little internal debate, and both parties are so firmly entrenched that the very idea of compromise is anathema.
With the “guidance” of our members of Congress, the country has become more divided, less likely to reach out to and listen to others. We are right and you are wrong, and nothing can change that.
To be sure, Americans say we want both sides to compromise, but we really don’t. It is going to take real leadership to bring the two sides together.
President Donald Trump didn’t do it. President Joe Biden said he wants to work with congressional Republicans as well as his Democratic colleagues. But even a cursory glance at Biden’s five months in office shows no indication of any real effort to reach out to Republicans. For their part, Republicans haven’t exactly bent over backward to work with Biden. Just as Democrats did all they could to demolish Trump’s agenda, the Republicans now say they will halt Biden’s plans at every turn.
This is no way to run the country. We must return sanity to our politics and demand that those we elect to represent us actually do so.
As President Barack Obama said, “A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence; or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, ‘Huh. It works. It makes sense.’ ”
Let’s all start making sense.