Columns 2017

Compromise should not be a dirty word

I want to be gleeful over how the current person pretending to be president (CPPP) had his butt handed to him last week courtesy of the Freedom Caucus. But I can’t because ultimately the American people are the losers.

The ACA is a bill that needs tweaking. It’s not perfect. It’s the first step in providing Americans with the guarantee of health care coverage enjoyed by every other first world country on earth, including Mexico. But because the R’s refused to reach across the aisle to work with D’s, they are stuck trying to negotiate with a faction of their own party that have made it clear they do not negotiate. They do not compromise. They are best at saying no and producing nothing but gridlock.

As this bill was pulled and another promise from the current administration went down in flames, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was enough brain power left in our Congress to understand that it will never function again unless moderates on both sides form a central coalition. This coalition’s only goal would be to advance sensible legislation without any need of kowtowing to either fringe.

I realize this is a scary concept to many legislators who don’t seem to remember that, except for the past decade or so, progress was made by compromise. Yes, compromise, that dirty word that causes the fringe on the left and the right to turn pale with a combination of anger and fright. Anger because they think they have the only solution and anything less is blasphemy. Fright because a quick look at our history shows that compromise has enabled our government to function for over two hundred years in a fairly forward motion. Gridlock arrived with an extremist base that was determined to destroy Obama’s administration and has hung around to potentially destroy our government.

Those of us who live in the middle are starting to think that no one represents us. Or, if they do, they are too frightened of their party’s fringe to act on that middle ground. So we find ourselves out in the cold while the tail wags the dog. Imagine the strength of our Congress if the middle of both parties actually sat down and worked out a compromise on anything from health care to minimum wage to climate change.

The emerging bills would probably enrage extremists on the ends of either party. But reasonable people in the middle could probably look at them and see that while the compromise did not perfectly fit their expectations, it was something that met enough of them to make the compromise viable. And that would mean that the government could continue to function with, hopefully, the best ideas from both sides of the aisle informing the final product.

Since CPPP has proven he’s not really the master of the art of the deal, perhaps he could attempt to stretch just a little beyond his very narrow comfort zone and learn the art of compromise. It is an art that requires patience, tolerance and flexibility. Actually, given those parameters, it’s clear that the ability to compromise is not in CPPP’s wheelhouse. He needs to be able to pound his chest and proclaim himself the greatest winner of all times.

Which leads us back to our Congress. They should know by now that they can’t depend on the White House to get things done. People there are too busy packing and unpacking for the weekly presidential golf game or practicing their congressional testimony on Russia. No, our legislators are on their own with this. And that’s a good thing. It means that can work together without interference.

As unbelievable as this may sound, working across the aisle is not only still possible, but absolutely critical to our country’s future. If both parties continue to cater to the extremes of their base rather than turning their gazes to the other side, our government will continue to be a non-functional mess in which nothing gets done and the only real activity is finger pointing to place blame for failure. Yet there are enough legislators in the middle to both craft and pass reasonable legislation if they were only not so frightened of what they view as the chasm separating them. But from the middle, it isn’t a chasm. And it can be bridged. And we can have good government again.

Imagine the health care bill we could have if moderates on both sides worked together. I can. I’m seeing what working together achieves in our Alaska House and it makes me proud. I wish DC would follow that example. Heck, I wish our Alaska Senate would follow that example.