Compromise is key to congressional success

Over the summer, while we were busy getting our tan on at the beach or picnicking with friends, it seems American politics turned even more heated and full of rhetoric than ever before. Since June, five Republicans have added their names to the list of viable 2012 presidential hopefuls, most of whom are trying to appeal to the right-wing Tea Party movement and willing to tell biased or flatly false statements to gain their votes (i.e. Michelle Bachmann).

However, probably the most obvious display of Washington’s worsening habit of political deadlock and impassioned accusations (whether true or otherwise) was the debate-that-never-should-have-been over increasing the debt ceiling. This became a hot button, polarizing issue constructed by a few partisans intent on bringing our nation to the brink of its first-ever default. Since 1960, the debt ceiling has been raised 78 times, under both Democratic and Republican administrations. It therefore seems absurd and totally illogical that in 2011, there was so much doubt until the last possible minute that this routine vote would even pass our Congress.

It is difficult to deny this entire conflict was artificially and needlessly created by a small group of extreme right-wing conservatives who held even their own party hostage to demands that any debt increase be accompanied by spending cuts but no additional revenues, even through taxes on the richest Americans. There are some (see again Michelle Bachmann) who unreasonably ignored the warnings of numerous non-partisan agencies which said that not passing a debt-ceiling increase would result in an unprecedented credit downgrade. These partisans refused to compromise with Democrats and President Obama, who agreed to make significant cuts to left-wing priorities, like Social Security.

Congressional Democrats weren’t blameless. The Democratic Senate and Obama rejected several versions of GOP House plans to raise the ceiling. The only thing both sides seemed to agree on was to continuously attack the other. It was only after weeks of political show-boating that the two parties joined together to pass a compromise package that satisfied no one and still resulted in a downgrade by rating agency S&P, who cited its cause as political gridlock.

This begs the question: when will our elected officials, regardless of party, listen to the vast majority of ordinary Americans and learn to compromise? Each of us knows we must compromise in our daily interactions with people to get anything done. So why can’t these powerful politicians grasp this simple concept? It makes no sense to allow the extremely partisan few to decide the fate of vitally important bills such as this. In recent years, our nation seems to have grown farther to the left and right.

Only we can change this. It is our responsibility as citizens to research and elect candidates who will work together to pass laws that really help the American people. Only we can change the language in Washington and clear the good name of one simple word: compromise.