It's an argument that I bring up often on this blog; that compromise for the sake of compromise is not a good thing, but a bad thing. Especially when that compromise is between two positions at opposites end of a spectrum. If your house has termites, you might call an exterminator. Or you could listen to your crazy Uncle Stan and burn it down. Only burning half your house down does not qualify as a reasonable compromise -- no matter how insistent Stan's arguments are that it's the only solution. A bad idea is a bad idea. Infusing it with a portion of good idea doesn't improve it, it only ruins the good idea. Some compromises should never be made.
In politics, compromises also suffer from a misperception of the center position. There's the Washington middle and the American middle. The Washington middle -- being a town inhabited by a larger than normal proportion of lunatics -- is almost never where the American middle stands. These days, it's far, far to the right. Where Uncle Stan's idea is to burn the house down, the Republican solution would be to burn the house to the ground, then salt the Earth so that nothing ever grows there again. The "compromise" in Washington would be to embrace Uncle Stan's lunacy wholeheartedly.
Of course, I'm just some guy with a blog. No one's going to listen to me, no matter how solid my arguments are. So maybe if someone like Robert Reich were to make the same damned argument...
We continue to hear that the Great Budget Debate has two sides: The President and the Democrats want to cut the budget deficit mainly by increasing taxes on the rich and reducing military spending, but not by privatizing Medicare. On the other side are Paul Ryan, Republicans, and the right, who want cut the deficit by privatizing Medicare and slicing programs that benefit poorer Americans, while lowering taxes on the rich.
By this logic, the center lies just between.
He goes on to point out that the American middle isn't just close to the Democratic position, it is the Democratic position -- in fact, somewhere to the left of it. He points to recent polling that shows 78% oppose cuts to Medicare, 72% support raising taxes on the wealthy, and that these opinions are held not only by liberals, but "68 percent of Independents and 54 percent of Republicans."
"In other words, the center of America isn't near halfway between the two sides," he writes. "It's overwhelmingly on the side of the President and the Democrats." The Washington middle is in the center of Crazytown. The political center has been dragged far, far to the right by the extremist positions of people like Paul Ryan. If he were anywhere else but in congress, his political ideas would be considered eccentric -- if you wanted to be polite about it. This is the person we're talking about compromising with. Crazy Uncle Stan.
Reich goes on:
Which is why I get worried when I hear about so-called "bipartisan" groups on Capitol Hill seeking a grand compromise, such as the Senate's so-called "Gang of Six."
Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, a member of that Gang, says they're near agreement on a plan that will chart a "middle ground" between the House Republican budget and the plan outlined last week by the President.
"Watch your wallets," he warns. Unfortunately, it's probably good advice. The "Gang of Six" will probably come out with a "reasonable compromise" that only requires us to burn down half the house. Or worse, to burn the entire thing down, but refrain from poisoning the soil with salt. Because that's the "reasonable" thing to do. That's where the Washington middle lies.
Yay for compromise! Huzzah for cooler heads prevailing! Now grab a torch. We've got to do the sane, ever so serious, grown-up thing and burn this house down.