With Congress’s approval rating hovering just around 14 percent, I think it is safe to say that what many people would like to see in the new session of Congress is compromise. However, compromise is often problematic, and, as Paul Krugman said in a recent New York Times article, “implying a symmetry between Republicans and Democrats, isn’t just misleading, it’s actively harmful.” And this is something we need to recognize. In any effort to compromise on anything, there has to be some semblance of equality among the sides. However, it is often the case that one side is actively fighting to subvert the other for little more than perceived political gain.
But, compromise shouldn’t be a dirty word, nor should we just say that one party is right over the other—no matter how my articles may make it sound. After all, unilateral action can have unintended and deleterious consequences.
Let’s take a look at current events, though. The recent, and so-called, “fiscal cliff” fiasco illustrates just what I am talking about. In this case, the crisis was manufactured in the sense that the effort for compromise was essentially a steeplechase. Each time some ground was gained, the bar would be moved by Republicans in the House of Representatives. I was a big advocate for going over the “cliff.” After all, the effects most likely wouldn’t have been immediate, and the overwhelming majority of Americans would have blamed the GOP for the failure to accomplish something. The backlash would have been swift, and the judgment harsh. Something would have been easily done.
This is where Krugman’s statement about both sides having equal footing becomes important. It was clear throughout the entire drawn-out process that Republicans wanted nothing more than to punish the President for winning the recent election. This is politics at its most reckless. Legislating for nothing more than spite does no good for anyone.
So, what’s the solution? First, we need to recognize that in this case not every side is working for what is best for the American people. Am I saying that the GOP has some ulterior big-business motive? No. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe that a hefty portion of the proposals that they make have not been shown to be, overall, beneficial. After we recognize this simple fact, then action becomes possible, and we can shun the offer, counter-offer strategy which failed us in December.
On the other side of things, the recent shooting in Connecticut shows the necessity for compromise. The NRA crawled out of its hidey-hole mere days after the tragedy to have Wayne LaPierre make the bold suggestion that, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” I guess it’s no matter that many Latin and South American countries do, in fact, have many more “good guys with guns,” and do not have an appreciably lower violent crime rate to show for it, according to the New York Times.
But snarkiness aside, the NRA has been tearing down barriers for gun owners for years now. For many, this is quite positive, but another large portion of the public would argue, and I would tend to agree, that the proliferation of guns in our country is one of the biggest public health issues that we face today.
This is where compromise comes into play. There is a middle ground here, and, as much as I hate to say it, each side has a valid argument. We can have our cake and eat it too in this case. Do we need assault weapons? Do we need high-capacity magazines? Do we need the capability to fire almost 100 bullets in mere minutes, killing 26 adults and children with brutal efficiency? No, unequivocally we do not.
Compromise has become a dirty word in recent years, and it’s no surprise why; there hasn’t been any. There is a time for compromise and a time for unilateral action, but knowing when it is time for one and not the other is the big trick. I advocate for smarter politics. I advocate for conversation and intelligent discourse, not politics for politics sake. We deserve better, and we can do better.