Guy W. Farmer: Is ‘compromise’ a bad word?
For the Nevada Appeal
Since when did “compromise” become a bad word? I think it happened last fall when disillusioned voters, fed up with President Barack Obama’s free-spending, Big Government agenda, sent a bunch of intransigent, “my way or the highway” Tea Party Republicans to Washington, D.C.
Since then, Obama and his “progressive” (i.e. very liberal) allies have been at loggerheads with House Republicans, who refuse to compromise on anything. There are two main reasons for this impasse as the debt limit debate rages on in the face of an Aug. 2 deadline to avoid default, which would be a national disaster: (1) ideological extremism and (2) too much money in politics.
Ideological extremism is on display every day in Washington as Obama and the GOP blame each other for the debt crisis; unfortunately, the president is winning this battle in the court of public opinion – “unfortunate” because he’s vulnerable on fiscal issues. But instead of pressing the advantage they gained in last year’s mid-term election, Republicans are blowing it by protecting Wall Street fat cats and reverting to their tired old “no new taxes” mantra.
And who are these intransigent ideologues? Well, they’re people like Tea Partiers Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann, and radio talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, who keep shouting “No compromise!” Paul, a perennial presidential candidate, is running a TV ad to that effect, trashing the leaders of his own party. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell struggle to come up with deficit reduction plans designed to avoid default. “Shame on them!” scream Paul, Bachmann, Limbaugh and Hannity as they lead their fanatic followers toward an electoral debacle in 2012.
When three Republican senators joined three Democrats to propose a “Gang of Six” solution to the debt crisis, I thought Hannity was going to have an on-air aneurism as he continued to push a House “cut, cap and balance” plan that has zero chance of passage in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
I’m old enough to remember when House Speaker Tip O’Neill compromised with President Ronald Reagan to avoid a budget crisis, and when congressional Republicans compromised with President Bill Clinton to reform welfare and balance the budget. But that was then and this is now, when compromise is a bad word. Although the Tea Party represents no more than 20 percent of the electorate, it has inordinate influence in Congress these days. The unintended result is to push independent voters like me – perhaps as much as 40 percent of the electorate – back toward the Democrats.
Another reason for the current stalemate in Washington is money in politics. “We have created a Congress incapable of … improving the lives of its citizens,” respected “Meet the Press” moderator Bob Schieffer said last Sunday. Because vast sums of money are required for successful political campaigns, he added, winning candidates arrive in Washington unable to compromise on anything. That’s the sad reality of our electoral system since few candidates have the courage to resist rich special-interest groups.
• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is an independent voter.