The politics of no compromise
Ideological compatibility is essential for representation, but citizens should care about more results than principles.
Representatives of varying ideological backgrounds make up Congress, making for an entertaining and often-frustrating political process. Small-government conservatives, self-identifying socialists and everyone in between work together to pass a budget. Hawks and doves butt heads when deciding on war appropriations and foreign policy, but at the end of the day, a decision is made. Our political system is built on compromise: Congress needs various forms of majority votes to keep the wheels turning, but what happens when ideology gets in the way of results?
The current health care debate has been debated ad nauseam in Congress and the media. Most Democrats who want to make America healthier while bending the cost curve down voted for the bill. Fiscally conservative Republicans in the House voted against the bill because of cost. Some Democrats from conservative districts sided with the Republicans and voted against the bill. Then there were the Democrats who voted against the bill because it was not liberal enough.
They wanted to send a message: They wanted a stronger public option and more regulation. Sending this message makes sense when this bill is prepared to pass. Party leaders are pressuring these Democrats to switch their votes to ensure that some reform is passed, so some of the progress they desire comes through. Many of these Democrats recognize that their party, their cause and, most importantly, their constituents need them to switch their votes to ensure reform, especially now when the votes are so close. Despite this pressure, some refuse to compromise their strong liberal principles and vote against a bill that would save lives.
Most notorious among these Democrats is Dennis Kucinich, a liberal congressman from Ohio and last-place finisher in the 2008 presidential primaries. Kucinich has long strongly advocated liberal causes; from a single-payer health care system to a ban on handguns, Kucinich has introduced many bills that he believed were perfect and would have made America better. But the House has never come close to having the votes for his liberal fantasies, and rather than moderating his stances to gain more support and better the lives of his constituents, Kucinich legislates liberally without passing anything. He even votes against progressive items on the Democratic agenda because they do not meet his liberal standards.
With the health care bill so close to passage and yet so close to failure, Democrats and progressives are pushing Kucinich to vote yes and pass this bill that would create a health care system he would prefer to the current one. Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas has repeatedly called for Democrats to challenge Kucinich in a primary to prevent him from hurting the progressive cause. President Obama flew with Kucinich to Ohio for a rally for health care, pushing him to vote for the Democratic bill. Constituents called out for the congressman to switch his vote because they want to improve their health care system. They agree with Kucinich’s liberal values, but they understand compromise is necessary to make changes. Other liberals in Congress, from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a self-described democratic socialist, to Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla. (who summed up the Republican health care plan as “Don’t get sick, but if you do, die quickly”), realize that compromise is needed to make changes in government from health care to the economy and everything in between.
Politicians must have ideological values to gain and keep public respect. They allow citizens to know what our leaders believe. Constant flip-flopping on issues to keep support leads to mistrust, but rejecting necessary compromise that advances constituent interests stalls Congress and can kill bills. At the end of the day, constituents want progress, not just ideological shouting. It is time for Kucinich and liberals like him to pick: Do they want their liberal values or do they want progress?
Daniel is a junior in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.