No Compromise?

What will the nation’s politics look like if, as expected, the Republicans take back the House of Representatives on November 2? Indiana’s Mike Pence, chairman of the House Republican Conference, issues a warning and a prediction. “There will be no compromise on repealing Obamacare,” he said. “There will be no compromise on stopping Democrats from growing government and raising taxes. And if I haven’t been clear enough yet, let me say again: No compromise.”

Statements like this have led to speculation that in addition to launching a series of dubious congressional investigations designed to tie up the Obama administration in endless hearings, Republicans are also likely to shut down the federal government in a budgetary showdown with the president. There is even talk of impeachment. President Barack Obama is, after all, the head of a “tyrannical government” that is depriving Americans of their constitutional freedoms. Or so a number of Republican candidates, such as Sharron Angle running for the Senate in Nevada and Allen West, a GOP candidate for the House in Florida, have suggested.

Alas, we’ve seen this movie before, during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Pence and others in his party seem eager to replay the obsessive Republican effort to delegitimize any Democratic president. That earlier political psychodrama ended in failure for Clinton’s antagonists, but put the country through a period of bitter partisanship, leaving millions of voters alienated from a political culture that seems incapable of coming to terms with the nation’s deepening economic and social problems.

If anything, the ideological zeal on the right seems more intense now. It is reflected in incendiary statements like Pence’s, as well as in the views of dozens of frankly antigovernment candidates running under the Republican mantle this year. The contempt for compromise—which seems little more than contempt for the democratic process itself—is also reflected in the efforts of prolife leaders to purge the movement of its once-prized prolife Democrats. What unpardonable sin have these Democrats committed? Answer: They voted for the health-care-reform bill. Yet no one can question the prolife credentials of representatives such as Joe Donnelly and Brad Ellsworth (now running for the Senate) of Indiana or Ohio’s Charlie Wilson. In the past, all received high ratings from the National Right to Life Committee for their congressional voting records. Now, however, the Susan B. Anthony List, an important prolife funding group, is spending hundreds of thousands dollars to defeat them and the handful of other prolife Democrats who concluded that the health-care bill would not expand federal funding for elective abortions. Yes, there is sharp disagreement about the safeguards against abortion funding in the law. These Democrats, like the Catholic Health Association and other prolife groups, found sound reasons to support the bill. As of this date, their detractors have not offered convincing evidence that the law will expand abortion funding, yet they continue to issue statements saying it does. Evidently, the current political polarization does not allow for an honest disagreement, even among those who have worked together for years to advance the prolife cause. Yet purging the prolife movement of Democrats will only solidify that party’s uncompromising abortion-rights stance, making it less likely that any real progress will be made toward chang- ing abortion law and practice. The actions of the Susan B. Anthony List and NRLC reinforce the suspicions of millions of Americans—most of whom genuinely want to find a way to reduce the incidence of abortion—that the issue is being exploited for partisan purposes.

It is disheartening, to say the least, to hear one Republican leader after another proudly recite the “no compromise” catechism, while repeating the disingenuous demand to cut taxes and balance the budget. Obama, of course, made moving beyond partisan gridlock a central theme of his campaign for the presidency. In addition to the ongoing economic crisis, it is safe to assume that Obama’s failure to deliver on the promise of greater political comity has contributed to the widespread voter dissatisfaction that threatens to turn his party out of power in Congress. It is also fair to say that the president and the Democrats have failed to persuade voters that their legislative agenda is better than the vague alternatives offered by the Republicans. Whatever the outcome of the election, however, this much is certain: Without compromise on the part of both parties, the deficit and the debt will continue to rise, health care will only become more expensive and less available, the economy will remain stagnant, and the esteem of a self-governing people for its own government will continue to erode.


Related: Episcopal Oversight, by Timothy Stoltzfus Jost
Prolife, Yes, and Pro-reform, by the Editors
The Limits of Authority, by Richard R. Gaillardetz; Extreme Makeover, by E. J. Dionne Jr.

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Were Republicans given a seat at the table while the health care bill was being drafted?  Was there any effort to compromise with Republicans on an issue like tort reform that could cause meaningful reductions in healt care costs by lowering malpractice insurance rates and reducing the use of "defensive medicine"?  The reason that the Democrats will be clobbered on Tuesday is that they have held all the cards and badly misplayed them, assuming they had a mandate to move the country radically to the left, they managed to destroy business incentives (except maybe to drop employee health care coverage) and they indicated that they want more.  Businesses have no idea how Obamacare will be implemented, no idea what their tax rates will be and no idea what their energy costs will be with "Cap and Trade" hanging over them.  The administration is clueless as to how this uncertainty is holding back any economic recovery.  The arrogance displayed by the Democrats have made the party of "No," reviled as little as two years ago, very attractive.  When he first met Republican congressional leaders, he pointedly told them, "I won" and proceeded to act like he was Emperor.  The editors weren't the least bit upset at the unwillingness of Obama, Pelosi and Reid to compromise.  I am sure that the Republicans will be willing to compromise on the rate at which the Democrats' misguided legislation can be undone. In the interest of full disclosure, Commonweal should disclose that it is a propaganda arm of the Democrat party.

Mr. Miller is it at least possible that anything that questions the Republicans is not connected to the Democratic party.  The Republicans have offered vague answers (they offered a budget with no numbers in it) and they passed huge omnibus bills with that spent tons of money.  The Democrats are not great but the Republicans have been in charge to long.  What we need is for the media (Commonweal included) to start the chant to end two party rule.

I am from Indiana and I find Mike Pence's atitude extreme.  Wheter or not you feel the other party has treated you unfairly, there is no reason to do the same thing you claim the democrats have done to your party.  I wish all politicians, regardless of political affliation, wiould start acting like adults instead of school children.

Sure, the Republicans were profligate spenders when in power.  That's why they lost in 2006 and 2008.  Obama set out to "fundamentally transform" America in a leftist direction that he had not disclosed to the voters and that the American people did not want.  A substantial majority of the American people want Obamacare repealed.  There can be no compromise on that if you believe in democracy.  It's not childish to carry out the will of the people, even if you are from Indiana.

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