The Sunday Morning News show is a quintessential American ritual. The news show will cover a variety of political issues and invite a politician to speak on an issue. Whether it is CBS’s Face the Nation or NBC’s Meet the Press these news shows are a big deal, especially for presidential candidates.
Turn on any of the Sunday Morning News shows as of late and you will see a Republican or Democrat whining about some policy issue or how a presidential candidate worked with the ‘other side’ during their time in the United States Senate. Of note, is Marco Rubio’s work on immigration reform.
While both sides can criticize the bill itself, a great deal of the attack on Marco Rubio comes from the fact that the Republican base could not fathom working with a Democrat on a policy issue. That concept is not unique to the Republicans, as Democrats often whine about the same thing.
So what’s the problem? Why is there such a distaste at the notion of compromise in governance amongst our governing elite?
Even the casual observer of the race for the Democratic and Republican presidential nomination can see the lack of desire to compromise. Most notably on the Republican side, long-time front runner Donald Trump’s rhetoric is centered around the idea of not compromising and winning. And this appears, perplexing to the Brooding Millennial, to be working with the Republican base.
Again, why? Why does the rhetoric of divisiveness and unwillingness to compromise attract voters in a way that measuredness, bipartisanship, and compromise simply cannot?
Compromise created the United States of America. Famously, the Framers of the United States Constitution crafted a document that represented the interests and values of all stakeholders. While not a perfect document (the three fifths compromise, case in point) the Constitution is a document created out of compromise. What would Republicans think of that!
The most striking example of compromise is the Great Compromise. A major debate in the Constitutional Convention was how the legislature (i.e. Congress) would be structured, along with the rest of the federal government. Instead of simply yelling and then leaving the room, the Framers got to work during that hot summer in 1787 to create a structure that would appeal to many in the room.
While not perfect, the Framers designed the system and compromised for the betterment of the country. Further, at the core of the Framers design was one of compromise. For the government to function properly, governance would have to be done through compromise. Looking at the government today, it seems that history lesson was lost.
The history of compromise did not stop with the Constitutional Convention of 1787. While a history of compromise in United States political history would be complete without talking about the Great Compromiser, for sake of time (and readers) a discussion of a more recent history of compromise is appropriate.
Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil are the patron saints of modern conservatism and modern liberalism, respectively. The 1980s are, for conservatives, a celebration of conservatism at work. For liberals, the 1980s is not the decade that they look on with the fondest of memory. Yet, for the moderate Brooding Millennial it is a time for celebration.
Chris Matthews book, Tip and the Gipper is a tale of how two titans of conservatism and liberalism clashed about how to craft policy for the United States and, ultimately, had to compromise to govern. While the Republicans (and Reagan) had the majority of the wins in the decade, their policy victories were still a result of compromise.
Compromise is not a sexy thing to talk about. Yet it is the only thing that, historically speaking, has lead to progress and good times.
Since Reagan and O’Neil ruled Washington, compromise has been a rare feat for the political class. Instead, the hyper-partisanship has only increased to this new political atmosphere that, on its best days, leaves Republicans and Democrats simmering in anger as opposed to outright hostility.
With the rise of Donald Trump, an increased sense that compromise, even the mere idea of compromise, has been all but lost. It is not the fault of the Republicans nor Democrats on their own, but, rather, they have both created this atmosphere where compromise is untenable.
While it is easy to get frustrated, it is vital that voters pay attention to how candidates speak about compromise on the campaign trail. Instead of flocking to the most partisan candidate, voters (and the silent moderate majority) need to embrace candidates who have paid attention to the history of the United States and know the importance of compromise. Voters need to elect candidates that not only speak of compromise fondly, but who go out and compromise.
Governing is not about pushing an agenda through without debate. Governing is not a zero sum game. Governing is a nuanced and methodical dance that requires leaders to sit down, get to know one another, and then get to the hard task of governing.
With the election coming up in 10 months, it is vital that compromise takes center stage rather than the hyper-partisanship that has plagued it thus far.