Wisconsin voters have a chance today to strike a blow against extremism by voting to recall the six Republican state senators who voted with the Governor to strip the rights of public employee unions. The recent debt ceiling crisis should be a lesson for all Americans that drawing lines in the sand is a recipe for disaster. In any dispute, particularly over a political issue, when one side digs in its heels it only serves to alienate the other side and exacerbate the differences between the parties. Long term success is only possible through reasonable compromise. The Party of Lincoln should remember the words of that great president – “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
In the recent budget battle, when Governor Walker refused the unions’ reasonable offer of complete capitulation on wages and benefits in exchange for their retention of the right to strike, it was a perfect example of how our political process has become dysfunctional. Similarly, when House Speaker John Boehner walked away from the so-called Grand Plan offered by President Obama which included modifications to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in exchange for tax increases on the wealthiest Americans. Boehner wasn’t willing to make the smallest compromise in order to really address the fiscal problems faced by the Federal Government.
In the wake of the downgrade by Standards and Poors, we now have a chance to send a message to politicians across the country to make the grand bargains that can lead to real solutions that will not be subject to the whims of the latest election. The Simpson-Bowles Commission’s report is an example that liberals and conservatives can forge agreements that both sides can live with. It only takes the political courage to stop pandering to the vocal fringes of both parties and face the fact that the only way for America to emerge from our economic problems is through cooperation, and a willingness to concede that the other party also has the country’s best interests in mind.