Compromise is dead in American politics. Both democrats and republicans in Congress refuse to bend on any issue that arises – often leaving President Barack Obama caught in the middle – and the result is political gridlock. This unwillingness to negotiate is a disservice to the democratic nature and history of our nation. How many times in the past year has the federal government nearly come to a grinding halt as a result of political staring contests between the two major parties? Every piece of legislation is a struggle. Congress passed only 80 bills last year – the fewest since 1947. Time and time again, Congress demonstrated that contemporary politics is an exercise in futility.
On Feb. 9 at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Sen. Jim DeMint (R, S.C.) perpetuated the belief that compromise is simply not the answer. Republicans should absolutely “not be looking to work with Democrats to develop common solutions to the nation’s woes,” according to DeMint. Once again party politics trump public policy and legislation. It’s clear that the politicians themselves and their respective party loyalties come first – the country and voters second.
DeMint’s sentiments are not new. Following the midterm elections of 2010 when Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, many GOP leaders shared similar views. Speaker of the House John Boehner, commenting on behalf of House Republicans, said: “We’re going to do everything – and I mean everything we can do – to kill [Obama’s agenda].”
Similarly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said of his party: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” So the primary goal of the Republican Party was not to pass policies that would ease economic stress or further the betterment of the nation but rather to do everything in their power to prevent Obama and the Democratic Party from doing either.
Both parties are guilty of these political games, but it is undeniable that the staunchest opposition comes from the GOP. Looking back to this summer and the infamous and maddening debt ceiling negotiations, it was clear the Republican Party would refuse any proposal from democrats simply on principle, regardless of content. The plan proposed by Obama during those negotiations was, for all intents and purposes, a conservative plan, yet GOP leaders refused to compromise simply because Obama proposed it.
For me, the political gridlock and “refusal to compromise beliefs” (the slogan politicians use to defend their unwillingness to negotiate) has gone beyond frustration. I have given up any hope that anything will be accomplished before the presidential election in November. It seems like a foregone conclusion that any policy offered by President Obama will be met with immediate refusal no matter what the policy actually is. I am still in disbelief that Congress came to an agreement to pass the payroll tax cut extension – but there are always exceptions that prove the rule and the rule currently seems to be “compromise is the enemy.”
Legislation is no longer about what benefits the public or which policy is enacted – the only thing that matters is which party proposed it. Politics has, in my opinion, never been more removed from the public. Politicians are not concerned with serving their constituency or the nation as a whole but only with “beating” the other side. And I can’t say that’s going to change any time soon.