I’m not sure how I missed it at the time, but I just came across a letter to the editor from Nov. 8. In that letter, John Straka, the self-proclaimed expert on fools, recalled a Get-Out-The-Vote radio commercial with my voice from campaign season. I announced I was proud to be a member of the Democratic Party and felt they had the best answers and candidates to meet the issues before us.
In John’s letter, he lamented any potential compromise by Republicans with Democrats on any issue saying, “Only a fool meets a fool half-way.” As is the case most of the time, I find outrageous flaws with John’s thinking. However, I am pleased he chose to illustrate one of the main barriers to reasonable solutions before our state and federal governments these days.
John asks rhetorically, “What Democratic policy could I support as a Tea Party Republican?” He provides his own answer, “None.” The Tea Party has been led by the nose down a path where compromise is a dirty word. They would sooner jump off an imaginary “fiscal cliff” than compromise with Democrats or with the party in which they feign membership. When Speaker Boehner negotiated a grand bargain with the president two years ago, he was resoundingly slapped by his extreme right fringe and the deal was off. When 10 Republicans were on the debate stage and offered $10 worth of cuts for ever $1 in new revenue, all 10 of them said no, in fear of Tea Party reprisal.
I know it is a cliché, but it is also true: Politics is the art of compromise. Sen. Ted Kennedy once said his greatest political regret was not accepting a compromise offered him by then President Richard Nixon. Nixon offered to support a form of national health-care. Sen. Kennedy refused, thinking he could get a better deal. It was 40 years before a substantial national healthcare bill came along again and, while good, the Affordable Care Act isn’t as good as the deal Nixon offered him. After rebuffing Nixon, Sen. Kennedy quoted Voltaire often: “Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
When the other side is the enemy to be destroyed rather than someone with a different idea or opinion, it would be difficult to compromise. However, when the other side is our neighbor and/or the elected politician in the office next door and we view them as “the enemy,” we start any at-bat with two strikes against us.
And lest anyone feel the need to play the hypocrite card, I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to macro-politics. When railing on about state or federal issues or even in discussions about the political parties, I can be as vitriolic as the next person. But, one on one, I like people and enjoy discussions and good company. Heck, even John and I can still smile, shake hands and share a cup of coffee these days. That is, if he’ll drive half way.