2014

8 October 2014: Politicians must be willing to compromise

Politicians must be willing to compromise

Religious rightists meet annually under the banner of “values voters” suggesting anyone not in their camp lacks values.  That’s ludicrous, of course, but that didn’t stop 2016 Republican/Tea Party presidential hopefuls from showing up and tossing red meat to the crowd.  Notably absent were Gov. Chris Christie (NJ-R) and Jeb Bush.  Surprisingly present was Sen. Rand Paul (KY-R) doing a magnificent job to dispel rumors of his libertarian lineage.  Paul has found religion.

What’s of interest, though, is that the gathering, along with statements by Colorado GOP/TP officials and candidates, give the rest of us, those who operate on the reality-based plane, a window into the current Republican/Tea Party mindset.  It boils down to this: If you had hoped the GOP/TP would begin to offer common sense, non-ideological approaches to issues, forget it.

The grand old party and its protégé are still preaching the same old stuff.  Messianic fervor still rules.  Shiny new models, such as senate candidate Cory Gardner, and refurbished oldies-but-goodies, such as gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, are still political Edsels, old clunkers with a fresh coat of paint but a bucket of bolts underneath.

The new/old GOP/TP platform, reminiscent of the halcyon Jerry Falwell era, centers primarily on one concept: “religious liberty.”  It’s impossible for a true American to be against freedom of religion, yet, ironically, it’s the ones who beat that drum who are intolerant.

For most Americans, religious liberty means you worship, or not, as you wish and I’ll do the same.  That’s it.  For religious fundamentalists, there’s an added caveat:  You can believe in what you want, but the bottom line is the United States is a Christian nation.  Here Christianity, not the Constitution, rules.

That, however, runs smack into the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” and it is from a religious context opposition to women’s reproductive rights and same-sex marriage arise.

At the Values Voters Summit, Sen. Ted Cruz (TX-R) proclaimed, “We need a president who will speak out for people of faith, prisoners of conscience,” and Paul insisted America is experiencing a “spiritual crisis.”

In like manner here in Colorado, Both Ways Bob Beauprez proclaims he’s reformed and insists he’s now One Way Bob.

The Republican/Tea Party remains steeped in an ideology, a maddening mix of religious fundamentalism, no-holds-bar Second Amendment fanaticism, and unadulterated adherence to top-down, trickle-down corporate-dominated economics.

An ideology, while appealing to its adherents, is destructive to a republican system of governance in that it leaves no room for compromise.  A my-way-or-the-highway approach simply leaves non-believers out.

In a 2006 speech at Georgetown University, Bill Clinton stated, “The problem with ideology is, if you got an ideology, you already got your mind made up; you know all the answers. And, that makes evidence irrelevant and argument a waste of time.

“So, you tend to govern by assertion and attack.”

In his book Back To Work: Why We Need Smart Government For A Strong Economy, Clinton expands on that notion, pointing out our constitution was written by people who were idealistic but not ideological.

“There’s a big difference,” he writes. “You can have a philosophy that tends to be liberal or conservative but still be open to evidence, experience, and argument. That enables people with honest differences to find practical, principled compromise.

“On the other hand, fervent insistence on an ideology makes evidence, experience, and arguments irrelevant: If you possess the absolute truth, those who disagree are by definition wrong, and evidence of success or failure is irrelevant. There is nothing to learn from the experience of other countries. Respectful arguments are a waste of time. Compromise is weakness. And if your policies fail, you don’t abandon them; instead, you double down, asserting that they would have worked if only they had been carried to their logical extreme.”

A pragmatic approach to governance focuses not on the ideal but the workable, the doable.  In our system, which has evolved into a public-partnership blend, government plays a role.  Anti-government thinking creates a non-starting, no-win-win conundrum.

“The antigovernment paradigm,” Clinton continues, “blinds us to possibilities that lie outside its ideological litmus tests and prevents us from creating new networks of cooperation that can restore economic growth, bring economic opportunity to more people and places, and increase our ability to lead the world to a better future.”

And therein lies the problem with the top two GOP/TP candidates for office—Beauprez and Gardner—which I’ll explore in next week’s column.

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