What’s So Wrong With Compromise?

April 12, 2011

One of the most disturbing aspects of the ongoing budget and debt battles in Congress and throughout the country is the refusal of some legislators and the Tea Partiers to accept the importance of bargaining and compromise as critical to the survival of our nation.

The United States and its governing system was founded on the working principles of trying to bring various groups, regions and allegiances together by finding commmon ground and then using the skills of bargaining and compromise as a way of resolving disputes.

What we have now in Washsington is a rejection of that tradition as political leaders state openly that compromise is a sign of weakness and a complete victory over one’s adversaries is the only true policy path.

This thinking creates an ugly atmosphere as legislators refuse to find a consensus and show little respect for bipartisan cooperation. What occurs instead are shouting matches on the floor of Congress, a reluctance to even talk to those from the other side of the aisle, and a commitment to an ideological position no matter whether that position is proven wrong or may lead to a dead end.

It is interesting in a troublesome way how little the Tea Party and its legislative representatives know about the Constitution, even though they claim that they are the major protectors of this document.

The Constitution above all else was based on pragmatism and realism. The Founding Fathers knew that in order to make a nation out of 13 colonies there had to be give and take and the understanding that taking a hard and fast position would lead nowhere but to gridlock and inaction.

That is why the Constitution takes a balanced view on the relationship between the federal government and the states; that is why the Constitution writers created the concept of checks and balances among the three branches of government; and that is why the Constitution developed a complex and undemocratic electoral system that satisfied the propertied elites by keeping slaves, women, native Americans and even men who had no land out of the voting process.

Compromise was at the heart of the Constitution and those in Congress who see compromise as a dirty word ought to read up on how this nation was founded and how it prospered as a result of a simple commitment to compromise.

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Read the Constitution!

April 18, 2010

The Tea Party movement does not hold exclusive rights to the U.S. Constitution, nor do those members who proudly claim that the Obama administration is destroying the document have even the faintest idea of what they are talking about. To be  blunt, Tea Partiers are completely ignorant about what the Constitution says and how it has been interpreted by federal courts and applied by the Congress and the states.

Let’s start with the Preamble to the Constituion, where the Founding Fathers talk about the importance of promoting “the general welfare.” Of course this is a vague statement, but it is clear that the writers of the document were supportive of government policies that addressed common issues, general concerns. It would seem that 50 million people without health care and millions more affected by outrageous insurance and hospital policies would require the government to take measures that promote ” the general welfare.” If ensuring that American citizens have access to affordable health care is not part of promoting ” the general welfare, I don’t what is.

Then there is the interstate commerce clause. Situated in Article 1, Section 8 are the powers of Congress and one of those powers is to ” Regulate Commerce with foreign nations and among the several states.” Historically, the courts in this country have given the federal government wide latitude in regulating commerce, such as the insurance industry in the health care field. Congress was certainly not violating the Constitution by regulating commerce in  this case health insurers; it was only doing what has been done many times during our history.

Finally, there is the supremacy clause. Article 6 in the Constitution states very clearly that, ” the Laws of the United States…shall be the Supreme Law of the Land.” Later in the Constitution in the Bill of Rights the Founding Fathers gave the states what are called reserve rights- the ability to control all those areas that the federal government doesn’t lay claim to. But when the Congress passes and law and the President of the United States signs the law it is supreme, no matter what level of complaint comes from the states.

Yes, the Constitution does talk about freedom and rights and controls on government, but within that wonderful document of restraint, Congress and the federal government are given responsibilities and powers to make decisions and to have those decisions be the law of the land. Americans throughout history have registered their disagreement with public policies but it is the Tea Partiers who ignorantly use the Constitution as their basis for questioning the legality of the Congress and the President to push forward with their agenda. They are wrong.