The Republican Party has been hijacked by uncompromising members resulting in legislative gridlock. The Republican Tea Party absolutists have been willing to shut down the government rather than compromise their positions. These Republican ideological purists are not only unwilling to compromise with Democrats, they’re unwilling to compromise with other Republicans. Republican leaders can’t get these ultra-conservatives to negotiate, which has resulted in government chaos. Speaker John Boehner resigned rather than continue to fight these rogue Republicans. To these Republican purists, “compromise” is considered a dirty word.
They demand absolute issue purity on certain subjects with no concession possible. On issues like abortion they take the most extreme and absolute positions which prevents any room for bargaining. Their obstructionist tactics have resulted in a totally dysfunctional Republican Party mired in gridlock. They have blocked any meaningful legislation within their own party unless it meets their narrow purist’s criteria.
Politics has been described as the art of the possible. The possible is achieved by competing interests bargaining to an agreement acceptable to each. Compromise is the glue that binds these competing political forces together. Rarely does anyone involved in the political process get everything they want. Each side must compromise, and in that give-and-take of negotiation, those competing forces can reach common ground. Anyone that is married understands that compromise is essential for long-term marital bliss.
In a divided government where neither party has an overwhelming majority, compromise is essential. To pass legislation it requires the votes from members of both parties to form a majority. President Obama and Democrats have struggled to pass any legislative initiatives because they have a Republican Party that is so deeply divided it’s unwilling to cooperate within its own membership. Hopefully, seeing the devastating results of that gridlock, Democrats will carefully and thoughtfully avoid the same mistakes made by Republicans.
However, we are seeing some of that uncompromising purity infecting the Democratic Party as well. It’s visible in the number of folks suggesting they won’t vote at all or will vote for third party candidates because they think Democratic candidates are imperfect. Rarely is a voter going to find a perfect candidate that meets every one of their criteria. Democrats are seeing some of the same inflexibility on issues.
The minimum wage is an example of this absolutist-purity requirement. The Fight for $15 has been a powerful motivating issue that the Democratic Party has embraced. A minimum wage of $15 is an excellent goal the party should support. However, an absolute refusal to compromise on the amount could result in no increase at all.
The Democratic Polk County Supervisors attempting to increase the minimum wage have come under intense and nasty criticism for a willingness to compromise on that amount. They have been called cowards and accused of collusion with special interests because they are willing to bargain. They’ve been attacked because they have been willing to listen to all stakeholders. The purists are demanding $15 regardless of the reality of the power of these competing forces. The supervisors have made it clear that they want the highest minimum wage possible, but they also understand they must pass an amount that the cities in Polk County will support. If the cities reject the increase because they believe it’s too high, there will be no increase of any amount.
The passion of the Fight for $15 activists is laudable. Their efforts are needed and essential. Their support will be needed to get the cities to accept the eventual wage increase passed. Hopefully, they will be able to accept some negotiated amount that is less than their goal.
The concern for Democrats is finding the right balance between purity and the possible on all issues. Compromise can’t become a dirty word within the Democratic Party or we are destined for the same gridlock that has paralyzed the Republicans. Democrats can’t allow the perfect to become the enemy of the possible.
by Rick Smith