The topic of compromise has dominated the national discussion as the new Congress arrives in the Capitol to take on the issues that eagerly await members’ wisdom.
Is it unrealistic to expect cooperation among the administrators of power bestowed upon them by voters?
If recent polling is any guide, few of us expect any real progress during the next 24 months or so.
This newspaper asked the question as the new year began, and the responses received mirrored those seen across the country when the subject of compromise in the development of political policy is broached.
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In case you missed them, among the local answers were conclusions such as the odds being very long; any appearance of compromise is a fluke; Congress shall be a place of divisiveness and discord; Republicans are enemies of America; President Obama is willing to negotiate only if he gets what he wants; the president is determined to ignore Congress and achieve his goals through executive power; and both sides of the aisle are stiff-necked.
The underlying discord and determination not to work together reveals a very transparent motive: winning votes in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes and determining what the Congress is going to look like two years from now.
It is reprehensible that party politics transcends the duty of all the players in this high-stakes drama to actually address the interests of the country.
We need solutions to problems. We need to seize opportunities to improve the lives of all Americans.
What we get is something far less, and it shouldn’t be that way. Allow me to repeat some examples recently cited:
We need the Keystone XL pipeline. Instead of acknowledging the will of congressional Republicans and Democrats alike that reflect the strong preference of the majority of Americans, the president will aim to please the far left of his party and will veto a measure aimed at pushing the pipeline forward.
Instead of dealing with the very real problems that Obamacare has wrought on so many, the president has vowed to use that veto pen again if Congress sends him anything that even appears to force him to admit that substantial amendments are sorely required.
Instead of pursuing a bipartisan approach to immigration reform, the president has declared that he alone has already accomplished what was needed regardless of either the legality or rightness of his actions.
The president has said he is following the will of the two-thirds of the country that did not show up to vote in the midterm elections. Such a position is an appalling aberration from the way our system of government works. It is also indefensible.
What is happening is not about fulfilling the interests of the nation. It’s about the use of power to gain political favor and the approval of historians.
Speaking of history, there are powerful lessons there that would solve the dilemma our country faces during the course of the next two consequential years.
The president would be well-advised to listen to the words of Benjamin Franklin when the task of drafting our Constitution was on the verge of failing.
Franklin asked fellow members of the Constitutional Convention to do what best served the new nation and to, “doubt a little their own infallibility.”
President Obama is not infallible. Neither is any member of Congress. If they recognize that reality, compromise and progress is possible.
All we need is for them all to heed the voice and wisdom of our Founders and do the right thing.
Not the political thing. Not the self-serving thing. Not the partisan thing.
The right thing.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. firstname.lastname@example.org