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Nov 08 2012

On Compromise and Reconciliation

The short version: No.

The longer version: I see people on Facebook and Twitter talk gratefully about the election being over and saying it is time for healing, reconciliation, and compromise. I find myself wondering whether they were paying attention during the campaigns, during the last congressional session, during the last 30 years.

First, I completely support healing. People have been working hard in the face of some ugly opposition to make our world better. That’ll net you some bruises. Take time to sleep, exercise, have some fun, get to know your friends again. Take time to heal those bruises if you’ve got them.

If you’re talking about reconciling relationships, however, ask yourself what you’re doing. Are you gearing up to apologize to someone who you feel was arguing from a good place when you got a bit testy with them? Are you mending family bonds that are important to the kids in the connection? Are you letting back into your life someone who’s spent the last several months telling the world that your rights matter less than theirs? Are you accepting one more apology from someone who gets abusive every time you discuss something you disagree on?

The differences matter. Not everyone is someone who should be in your life if you want a decent life. Sometimes strife is freedom.

Sometimes too, reconciliation is mere capitulation. Okay, you can be friends with that person again, but only if you agree to shut up about your political beliefs in the election off-season. If you’re willing to be apolitical for all but the last months out of an election cycle, that may not seem like much of a sacrifice. On the other hand, if you cared about these issues enough to talk about the election, why would you want to step back and leave it all up to the politicians now?

Compromise isn’t necessarily capitulation, at least by definition. The truth is, however, that compromise has long since ceased being an option for many on the right. I can’t say why for certain. They’ve gotten used to winning. They’ve gotten more religious–and “righteous” along with that. They’ve become increasingly beholden to a few very rich people, mostly men, for their funding. None of those make for easy compromise.

Whatever the reason, the elected right wing has gotten further right on many things, and they’ve coupled that with a refusal to budge. Attempts to compromise with them have only moved the rest of us more to the right. They have resulted in us capitulating to the demands of fanatics over the desires of the majority of the population.

Now isn’t the time to compromise. There is too much to be done, too much that needs to change and quickly. It is time to dig our heels in and demand that we get what we voted for. It’s even time to demand that we get some things that were never put on the plate. They told us we couldn’t re-elect Obama in a down economy, so we’ve already done the impossible. It’s time to try for more.

It’s time to look the Republicans in the eye and tell them, “No.” We won’t be alone. The electorate just did a very good job of telling them this in many, many places across the country. It’s time to tell them that the people want things to get done, and if they can’t or won’t get things done, they can sit in the corner until it’s time to go home and explain to their constituents why they did nothing. And it’s time to remind them how poorly “for the ‘job creators’” went over as a reason this time around.

That isn’t to say that there won’t or shouldn’t be bipartisan work. There will be. There always is. There are resolutions and celebrations and limit adjustments and regulation changes and legal reform work going on all the time. It doesn’t make good horse-race reporting, so you don’t hear about it, but it’s there. It will keep happening.

Compromise for the sake of compromise, however, has to stop. Bipartisanship has no fundamental value. It’s only as good as the law-making that comes out of it.

Does that mean the political fighting will go on? Yes, and it should. We have too much to lose if we don’t fight.

That doesn’t make fighting any more fun and carefree, of course. It will still be uncomfortable. It will still, after all, be a fight. However, Tuesday taught us, over and over, that these are fights we can win. Doesn’t that make them worth fighting?

14 comments

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  1. 1
    Raging Bee

    Before any “compromise” or “reconciliation” can happen, both sides have to state their respective positions clearly, rally support for them on the House and Senate floors, and show resolve in the floor debates. The Republicans have done this, but the Democrats now have to regroup, take advantage of their recent gains, and rally their supporters to capitalize on the recent victories. Making “conciliatory” noises before any of this has happened would be disastrously wrong — which is, of course, why the Republicans are demanding it now. I really hope Obama and the Senate Democrats don’t get bamboozled this time.

  2. 2
    eric

    The truth is, however, that compromise has long since ceased being an option for many on the right. I can’t say why for certain.

    I can be fairly certain: they put party over country. Specifically, it is more important to them that a Democratic government be seen to fail than it is to pass good laws. If the GOP has a chance to pass legislation that is good for the country even from their perspective, but it lets the President or the Democratic party look good, they won’t do it. The only time they will agree to pass legislation under a Democratic President is if they think the people will hold them, the GOP, responsible for non-passage.

    This is not just IMO. Mitch McConnell said point blank, two years ago, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Not a conservative policy. Not getting their platform into legislation. Making the Democratic President fail.

  3. 3
    eric

    Just a follow-on; I’m sure they would parse that in positive terms. Probably something like: the best thing for the country is to have the GOP in charge, therefore, ousting the Democrats is putting the country first. But whatever noble end they claim, the means indisputably includes a conscious choice to gridlock the legislative branch of government.

  4. 4
    Worldtraveller

    Just make sure it’s not all one sided ‘compromise’:

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2012/11/07/mark_levin_gives_unvarnished_truth_on_romney_loss.html

    MARK LEVIN: We conservatives, we do not accept bipartisanship in the pursuit of tyranny. Period. We will not negotiate the terms of our economic and political servitude. Period. We will not abandon our child to a dark and bleak future. We will not accept a fate that is alien to the legacy we inherited from every single future generation in this country. We will not accept social engineering by politicians and bureaucrats who treat us like lab rats, rather than self-sufficient human beings. There are those in this country who choose tyranny over liberty. They do not speak for us, 57 million of us who voted against this yesterday, and they do not get to dictate to us under our Constitution.

    We are the alternative. We will resist. We’re not going to surrender to this. We will not be passive, we will not be compliant in our demise. We’re not good losers, you better believe we’re sore losers! A good loser is a loser forever. Now I hear we’re called ‘purists.’ Conservatives are called purists. The very people who keep nominating moderates, now call us purists the way the left calls us purists. Yeah, things like liberty, and property rights, individual sovereignty, and the Constitution, and capitalism. We’re purists now. And we have to hear this crap from conservatives, or pseudo-conservatives, Republicans.

  5. 5
    Kim Rippere

    I am not yet ready for bipartisanship. Also, I feel like we *just* had this same conversation (regarding another situation)! The GOP have *not* been trustworthy and honest partners in collaboration. Until they prove they are (at least a little) I have no reason to trust them to be good partners now.

    Actions speak louder than words. Let them act like a good partner repeatedly and over time and I will see what I think. Dems and progressives need to lead and let the GOP show their stripes.

  6. 6
    Jafafa Hots

    Well Boehner has signaled that he is willing to compromise.
    Before the election he insisted on no tax increases as his main issue, and blockaded everything based on that.

    How he says he’s willing to work with the President and compromise on the tax issue as long as Obama agrees to no tax increases.

    Progress!

  7. 7
    Martha

    Might they still be in the denial stage of grief, poor dears?

  8. 8
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    I agree wholeheartedly with this post. Compromise is a two-way street, and so is biopartisanship. If the Republicans want any, they’re going to have to offer some concessions themselves, or there’s just no point in treating with them. Honestly there’s only a marginal point even if they were willing to compromise on some things; their policies are so catastrophically non-reality-based that giving them any of what they want is actively harming the country.

  9. 9
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    How he says he’s willing to work with the President and compromise on the tax issue as long as Obama agrees to no tax increases.

    Progress!

    the umpteenth re-statement of “we’ll compromise with you as long as you agree to our demands in full” is not progress. at all.

  10. 10
    Shripathi Kamath

    Compromise to Republicans means do it the way Mitt Romney would have had he been elected President.

  11. 11
    sawells

    There is the handy feature that if the Republicans don’t compromise by New Year, tax rates go back up to (gasp) the rates under Clinton, and (gasp) defence spending has to be cut back a bit. “Fiscal cliff” my ass. And Obama can very publicly say: let’s lower the rates for 98% of the country and leave them a tad bit higher for the 2% who make the most money. Let the Republicans oppose that, see where it gets them.

  12. 12
    lorn

    Seems to me that we need party of left-wing extremists, hippies perhaps, to propose a 100% capital gains tax, liquidation of the military, and outlawing of private property. Give the right a choice between relatively acceptable progressives and dirty-earth worshiping-commie-pinko-fag-hippies and they will be fighting to get in line with the progressives.

    A wildly far left party would give Limbaugh, Beck, and the rest of the right-wing talking heads and bombasts, something to talk about. Having to divide their fire between Progressives and a Peace-and-Love party would make them less coherent to their own followers and less effective overall.

  13. 13
    Christoph Burschka

    The options:

    No compromise: Obama refuses the demands of Republicans in the House. They hinder, boycott and outright sabotage his administration every day for the next four years, after which they blame him and Democratic leaders for getting nothing done.

    Compromise: Obama reaches out to Republicans, and accedes to everything they ask for. They hinder, boycott and outright sabotage his administration every day for the next four years, after which they blame him and Democratic leaders for getting nothing done.

  14. 14
    Christoph Burschka

    Seems to me that we need party of left-wing extremists, hippies perhaps, to propose a 100% capital gains tax, liquidation of the military, and outlawing of private property. Give the right a choice between relatively acceptable progressives and dirty-earth worshiping-commie-pinko-fag-hippies and they will be fighting to get in line with the progressives.

    They’d still vote for the GOP, so that wouldn’t change.

    What might have an effect would be the existence of a moderate fiscal conservative or libertarian/classic-liberal party. The GOP can currently unite every conservative (from the funeral-picketing Westboro Baptist to the business owner who puts his tax cut over other people’s civil rights) under their banner.
    This has allowed them to chase themselves further and further into the fringe. An alternative centre-right party would put a stop to that.

    The centre-right party would probably still endorse odious policies regarding social care, but at least religious fundamentalism would drop right off the mainstream.

  1. 15
    On Ending Friendships Over Politics | Brute Reason

    [...] Zvan wrote something very wise about this: If you’re talking about reconciling relationships, however, ask yourself what [...]

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