Key to regaining political power lies with art of compromise

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The recent federal government shutdown and the national debt ceiling debacles painfully point out just how dysfunctional our politics have become. The art of compromise has been lost in Washington, and voters don’t like it. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reported a record number of Americans, 60 percent, would replace every member of Congress if given the opportunity. That is a bipartisan supermajority, and demonstrates that citizens can agree on at least something.

Thank you, Congress, for bringing America together!

POLITICAL DISAGREEMENTS are to be expected, but why do so many citizens refuse to compromise politically? We learn to compromise in other facets of our lives. We compromise with our spouses, children, bosses and co-workers. We make financial compromises every day – which car to buy; new patio or kids’ college fund; steak or hamburger, etc. We are comfortable with compromise in much of our lives, but too many of us refuse to compromise in politics.

Those who refuse to compromise likely get great satisfaction from their righteous indignation. They may see politics as some great spectator sport, cheering for their favored party, trashing the opponents and criticizing the referees.

ANOTHER REASON people refuse political compromise is they listen exclusively to MSNBC or Fox News. Along with talk radio, these networks pander to their audiences to increase advertising revenues. Within their respective media echo chambers, there is no need for hyper-partisans to compromise, because their political views are not only confirmed, but strengthened.

Politicians capitalize on the passion of the political extremes. With great oratorical fervor they promise unachievable political goals. From the left there will be no reduction in entitlements. From the right comes no increases in taxes.

Now, how is that math going to work? It doesn’t, and the politicians know it. And they know they must compromise. But too much of the electorate actually believes politicians’ impossible promises. Citizens get into such an angry frenzy that politicians lose the ability to make reasoned compromise. They become hostages to their supporters to whom they promised too much, and are forced into playing budget roulette. Only at the last minute can they compromise and still maintain their political pride.

The result of these repeated bipartisan kabuki dances is that financial markets become turbulent, corporations are unable to plan and invest, and the economy and job growth are shackled by shutdowns and fiscal stalemates.

OUR ALLIES WONDER what is wrong with America. China, the world’s second-largest economy, has called for the U.S. dollar to be replaced as the international reserve currency, and for broader steps to create a “de-Americanized world” because of our political impasse.

We make China’s case for them. We pay a huge economic price and hurt our international prestige because of the repeated budget dramas. America is embarrassed by our collective inability to compromise and conduct business like adults.

Otto von Bismarck, considered the father of modern Germany, wisely stated: “Politics is the art of the possible.” He didn’t say it is the art of getting everything you want, or even getting most of what you want. It may be getting very little of what you want, but that may be the best you can do.

ALTHOUGH BOTH parties are poor compromisers, Americans have concluded that Republicans and the Tea Party are worse. In the same NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll discussed above, the Republican Party was blamed for the shutdown by 53 percent of respondents, while 31 percent blamed President Obama. This is a devastating 22 percent margin, greater than the blame laid on Republicans after the 1995-1996 shutdowns. Twenty-four percent of citizens had a favorable view of Republicans, and only 21 percent had a favorable view of the Tea Party. Both are all-time lows.

A recent survey of Republican and Tea Party focus groups provides insight into why social conservatives find it difficult to compromise. Bottom line, they are traumatized because their world is changing too fast. They were not ready for a black president, significantly increased legal and illegal Hispanic population, and the brutal effects on the working and middle classes of globalization and the financial crisis.

White social conservatives’ perception that their world is irrevocably changing is correct. As further confirmation, the Census Bureau reports whites will no longer be the majority in America in 30 years. Many are unable to compromise politically in the face of this existential threat to society as they know it, and that drives their intransigence.

Perhaps because the Tea Party largely consists of political novices, they seem more interested in pure ideology than in winning elections. They have nominated far-right candidates who have proved unelectable in general elections.

DEMOCRATIC U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill, Chris Coons and Harry Reid were elected because Tea Party-supported Republican candidates were too extreme. Wouldn’t the Tea Party have preferred electable conservative Republicans to liberal Democrats?

The Tea Party needs to grow in political maturity or become inconsequential. Political power requires winning elections, not just passionate expression of ideology. If the Tea Party is to succeed, it must soften its strident views and develop appeal beyond its current base.

And the first step toward political power is to compromise with mainstream Republicans. The Tea Party has damaged the entire Republican Party with its misguided campaign to repeal/defund Obamacare. The NBC/WSJ poll results are only an initial indication of the damage incurred on Republicans by the Tea Party.

Mainstream Republicans have work to do as well. They have become intimidated by the fear of a primary challenge from the right, and have given far more deference to the Tea Party than their ideology and numbers deserve. They need to stand up to the Tea Party to preserve a Republican brand that traditionally has appealed to a broader spectrum of voters.

In politics, compromise is not a bad word. Losing is a bad word.

(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy officer. He lives and writes in Savannah.)

Comments (17) Add comment
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deestafford
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Points
deestafford 10/20/13 - 12:14 am
4
2
To me it appears the writer is starting to move more and more

toward the left in his writings. He seems to be joining McCain, Graham, and Corker in the moderate wing of the Republican party which doesn't understand you can only compromise when you have the same end goals in mind. Obama and the Democrats want to socialize this country and do everything they can to destroy the Republican party.

For some reason the writer thinks it is wrong for someone to be elected and actually attempt to do what they promised the people who elected them they were going to do: defund obamacare. Many of the Republicans promised that but only a few lived up to their promises. Mainly those from the Tea Party...a group that believes in individual responsibility, limited government, and lower taxes.

We Conservatives are sick and tired of having to fight two fronts---the leftists/statists and the go-along-get-along moderates. There is nothing to be proud of by being a moderate. It just means you go which way the wind blows and don't really stand for anything and can't be counted on when the chips are down.

The NBC/WSJ poll scared the careerists and has them shaking in their booties. The people here in fly-over country stand up with Cruz and Lee because they are fighters and there are way too few of them in the Republican party...especially in DC. The establishment Republicans are always saying, "let's don't fight this time. Let's wait until the next election". or "Let's wait until the budget. Then we'll really lay into them." It's always the next hill. Or the next. It's time to fight for the country and the people rather than kiss butt for the party.

One thing I can say for the Democrats is the stick together and don't back away from a fight as our "moderates" do. At least they have the guts to stand up for what they believe in even if it's wrong.

deestafford
29075
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deestafford 10/20/13 - 12:41 am
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2
I really take it as an insult when the writer says we white

people are not ready for a black president. Many, including myself, strongly supported Herman Cain who was destroyed by Obama and his irk just as he has lied and destroyed all of his other previous opponents. Before he was president he stole the state senator and US Senate seats by unsavory tactics against his opponents.

Right now my desired candidate is Dr Ben Carson. Who in case the writer doesn't know is a black man.

I guess the writer is drooling at the mouth as are the liberals that one day, because of Ted Kennedy's screwing up our immigration policies in 1965 legislation, we will be over run with third world illegals and the whites will no longer be the majority.

At that time we will no longer be a country that recognizes the tenents laid down in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. We will become a country governed by the rule of men and not the rule of law. There will be no absolute truths...only those "truths" that our elite leaders tell is are truths. Then the country will have the "living constitution" the left thirsts after.

GACopprhed
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GACopprhed 10/20/13 - 04:25 am
2
9
The writer is dead on. Those
Unpublished

The writer is dead on. Those who refuse to compromise will be brushed off the shelf like dust.

InChristLove
22481
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InChristLove 10/20/13 - 07:29 am
6
2
Compromise means to agree

Compromise means to agree with and give in to everything the Democratic party wants.

deestafford
29075
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deestafford 10/20/13 - 07:39 am
3
2
How can you compromise when Obama and Reid say they

will not even negotiate? When you set out a negotiating position you set it out perhaps a little further than what you are willing to settle for and then work from there as was the position to defund obamacare. From there the Conservatives such as Ted Cruz and Mike Lee would have been willing to settle for a year's delay in the individual mandate. But no. Obama had to act like a dictator and not even negotiate. This was followed by the spinelessness of some of the Republican establishment who are not willing to fight because their "principles" are written in sand.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 10/20/13 - 07:48 am
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2
Ignorance of History

I guess Ed Conant completely forgot the 2010 historic Congressional elections where the Tea Party propelled Republicans to office in epic numbers. His ignorance of history is stunning.

Conant is a retired Navy guy with too much time on his hands. He pictures himself as an establishment columnist when all he does is write glorified letters to the editor to papers that don’t pay him a dime. This self-imposed fantasy that he is an establishment columnist leads him to attack grass roots conservative movements because they don’t honor establishment etiquette.

He doesn’t want to be just one of the people speaking up at Tea Party town hall meetings. He wants to be a columnist even if he is considerably out of his league. Better for him to get a toy boat to play with in the tub.

carcraft
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carcraft 10/20/13 - 08:26 am
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Obama's negotiating position

Obama's negotiating position "I won't negotiate " maybe Ed could talk to Obama. Any body with two neurons that synapse can clearly see that Obama Care isn't ready fir prime time! Why wouldn't Obama negotiate a delay to fix it?

carcraft
27278
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carcraft 10/20/13 - 09:33 am
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1
A serious question for Ed.

A serious question for Ed. What exactly is extreme about following the constitution, limiting government, and balancing our budget? We live within the law in our lives, many of us try to stay our of debt,and we limit our responsibilities to what we can physically and financially manage. What is radical about asking the same of the government?

ymnbde
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ymnbde 10/20/13 - 09:54 am
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2
did Barney Frank actually write this?

not very well written, not very well at all
some are just more susceptible to main stream (gover)media
influence than others
the middle isn't between fox news and msnbc
it is between James Madison and Karl Marx
and the govermedia is much closer to Karl Marx

dichotomy
34754
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dichotomy 10/20/13 - 10:36 am
3
1
Compromise is why we are

Compromise is why we are broke. Compromise is why half of this country does not pay any federal tax. Compromise is why 47 million people are on food stamps. Compromise is why300,000 life line, land line telephones for a few have turned into 15,000,000 Obamaphones.

Compromise is merely the proverbial elephant that is a mouse designed by a committee. Yes, it gets done but the results are usually really really bad. Compromise has proven to be a terrible way to run a government.

Jake
33023
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Jake 10/20/13 - 11:25 am
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2
Many deniers...,

....on here. Keep on denying and continue to lose elections.

deestafford
29075
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deestafford 10/20/13 - 12:14 pm
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1
Jake,

What is your solution to our out of control debt, deficit, and spending? Don't say raising taxes on the wealthy because they pay the vast majority of taxes now.

carcraft
27278
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carcraft 10/20/13 - 12:46 pm
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1
Compromise has resulted in $6

Compromise has resulted in $6 trillion dollars in debt!

Little Lamb
47267
Points
Little Lamb 10/20/13 - 01:30 pm
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1
Liberal

deestafford posted:

To me it appears the writer is starting to move more and more toward the left in his writings.

From the very first column he posted in the Chronicle up through today's column, Mr. Conant has consistently spewed liberal talking points. He is a Democrat through and through, so his "advice" to help the Republican Party win elections rings hollow. With friends like Ed Conant, the Republican Party does not need enemies.

The Republican Party needs to move right or it needs to disappear.

harley_52
24029
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harley_52 10/20/13 - 06:20 pm
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1
"The Republican Party needs to move right...

....or it needs to disappear."

Completely agree, LL.

harley_52
24029
Points
harley_52 10/20/13 - 10:25 pm
0
0
"Keep on denying and continue to lose elections."

Keep felons, dead people, non-citizens, and multiple voters voting and you may continue to win elections.

blues550
380
Points
blues550 10/21/13 - 10:48 am
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0
Clueless
Unpublished

This guy is about as clueless as Billy's Boys in their editorial rants. Being conservative means staying the course in your corp beliefs. Is there room for compromise? Yes, but that takes BOTH sides.

These buffoons have apparently drunk the grape juice that the other side wanted to compromise.

Darby
27280
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Darby 10/25/13 - 09:21 pm
0
0
"Along with talk radio, these networks pander to their

audiences to increase advertising revenues."

.
Then why is Fox raking it in, while MSNBC languishes in the wilderness?

Please spare us from Democrat fanatics who would "help" Republicans.

Darby
27280
Points
Darby 10/25/13 - 09:25 pm
1
0
"In politics, compromise is not a bad word.

Losing is a bad word."

.
Maybe the writer could explain his definition of "compromise" to OzBama.

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