The End of the Middle: How the Death of Compromise Crippled our Government

KC Star this weekend ran a story called “The End of the Middle: How the Death of Compromise Crippled our Government.” The article is well worth taking a few moments to read. Here are a few pull quotes… what do you think?

“On a spring day in 1984, a politician named Tip O’Neill walked to the floor of the U.S. House, his face red with rage. O’Neill’s appearance was unusual. Speakers of the House rarely engage in debate.

On this day, however, theWashingtonveteran was incensed at a rowdy band of Republican rebels who were exploiting a new technology — live telecasts of House debates — to smack Democrats as wasteful and unpatriotic. A little-knownGeorgiacongressman named Newt Gingrich had recently made just such an accusation. O’Neill reached the podium, turning to face his nemesis. “My personal opinion is this,” he roared. “You deliberately stood in that well before an empty House and challenged these people, and challenged their patriotism, and it is the lowest thing that I’ve ever seen in my 32 years in Congress!”

The chamber responded in shocked silence, for just a moment.

Then a Republican quickly moved to have O’Neill’s words “taken down” — removed from the official record. It was an unprecedented rebuke for a House speaker, the first time such an action had been taken since 1795. Our government’s slide into dysfunction and disaster was under way…”

“Kansans, who elected moderate Republican Nancy Kassebaum three times and helped nominate Bob Dole for president, are now represented by perhaps the most conservative congressional delegation inAmerica. No Democrat holds a federal or statewide elected office…”

“But evidence of government stalemate isn’t limited to policy decisions and fights with the White House. Congress has largely stopped making laws because they prefer votes on symbolic measures all sides know can’t possibly pass. Indeed, the 112th House has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act more than two dozen times. The Senate has passed a tax hike for high earners that the House will never consider. In both cases — and in dozens of others — votes are designed to politically embarrass opponents, not to pass real laws. Most of the symbolic votes are designed to show up in political commercials in the fall.

The result of all of this, critics contend, is a take-no-prisoners approach that makes agreement not just capitulation, but a moral failure. And some pundits blame Republicans for the impasse more than Democrats. Even prominent former GOP senators such as Simpson and Jack Danforth of Missouri agreed the modern Republican Party has veered toward extreme ideological beliefs and policies and has embraced what Danforth told The Star are “cynical and destructive means” to achieve their ends.

Nationally, more than 70 percent of Republicans these days identify themselves as conservative or very conservative, while just 40 percent of Democrats call themselves liberal or very liberal. Studies show more Republicans have moved sharply rightward since the 1970s than Democrats have moved to the left.”

“Tea party favorite Richard Mourdock won a surprising primary victory this summer inIndiana, defeating longtime incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar. His post-election message? Compromise means the other side gives in. “I hope to build a conservative majority in the United States Senate so that bipartisanship becomes Democrats joining Republicans to roll back the size of government,” Mourdock said.”


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  • Aaron Scott

    I read an article once (need to find it again) that discussed some of this. The overall view was interesting. The writers opinion was that our inability to compromise has to do with who we elect. See most of our representatives are lawyers. Lawyers are especially qualified to write laws I guess. But they are also trained from day one to adopt a position and refuse to move from that position. Whether they are right or wrong, innocent or guilty, they are taught and trained to adopt a stance and not depart from it. When you put that many people in a room with that kind of thinking, it is not wonder that nothing gets done.