I was only a teenager for a good portion of the 1980s, and I wasn’t much interested in politics back then, but I find myself longing for those days when compromise wasn’t considered such a bad word amongst politicians. Republican President, Ronald Reagan, and Democrat Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, worked together for the good of the country. Although the men differed immensely on policy, Reagan and O’Neill were adamantly opposed to a polarized atmosphere and very committed to the advancement of the United States. The leaders of the competing parties embraced a style of government that first and foremost had its citizens’ best interests at heart. That brand of government demands at least some compromise which is sorely missing in today’s political spectrum.
The art of compromise has been drastically waning in modern times, most notably with the inception of the Tea Party, but now the negotiation process is all but dead due to the recent actions of the Republican controlled Congress. Last Friday (4/7/17) Neil Gorsuch was confirmed as the newest Supreme Court Justice, but only after Congressional Republicans were able to manipulate rules in the Senate to their advantage. The change reduces the longstanding 60-vote threshold down to a simple majority in the 100-member Senate. This dangerous change, known as the “nuclear option” because it “blows up” the traditional rules and bipartisanship that were once coveted in the Senate, means there is no longer an incentive to include the other political party in our federal government’s decision making process. How ironic considering this is the first time in our nation’s history that an elected President does not boast a political or military background, but instead he prides himself on being a top-notch negotiator.
I completely understand the Republicans’ way of thinking, and attitude, behind their shady maneuver to bypass the Democrats altogether (at least in the foreseeable future) concerning their agenda. The Democrats mirrored those sentiments not so long ago (2013) when Harry Reid successfully led the charge to change the rules, so his party could appoint lower-court judges and Cabinet members without any Republican support. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Payback is a b***h.
I said I understand the Republicans’ thought process, but I certainly do not agree with their vengeful act. The change in Senate rules takes compromise off the table and basically allows whichever party controls Congress to pass anything and everything without the checks and balances proffered and cherished by our Founding Fathers. That being said, I am the furthest thing from a constitutionalist. I think the U.S. Constitution is so frequently misinterpreted (e.g. the Second Amendment) and fairly difficult to decipher with the inclusion of the numerous Amendments added throughout the years. I truly believe it’s impossible to know for sure how our Founding Fathers would view and respond to the issues of today. However, I am positive of their desire to always hold our elected officials accountable to their constituents via checks and balances; hence, the reason for our 3 branches of government: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.
All of this nonsense, over something as elementary as filling a vacated seat in the Supreme Court, simply because no one from either party was willing to compromise. A seat that had been left open since Justice Antonin Scalia’s untimely death over 14 months ago. Let me be perfectly clear here. I think former President Obama’s Supreme Court Justice nominee, Merrick Garland, should have been confirmed before our 44th President left the Oval Office. I think – oh boy, here we go – based on the Constitution – Obama had every right, as well as legal authority, to nominate Merrick Garland and to have the Senate hold confirmation hearings on Garland’s behalf. However, the Republicans disrespectfully refused to even consider the highly qualified man in hopes of winning the White House in November (an unlikely scenario at the time). Their bold gamble paid off…but at what expense? The Republicans won, for the time being, but the nation lost when the “nuclear option” was implemented.
Both parties had opportunities to compromise in regards to filling Justice Scalia’s seat, but both sides are more concerned about the D or the R that comes after their names than what’s best for the people. Senator John McCain from Arizona (I’m embarrassed to say) insisted, prior to the Senate rule change, that anyone who thought the revision would be beneficial was a “stupid idiot” and a “numskull,” yet McCain ultimately aligned with his party and lent his support for the ill-conceived change. Why can’t somebody in our federal government – anybody – just do the right thing? To be fair, three Senate Democrats: Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), and Joe Manchin (West Virginia) did put pettiness and partisanship aside by giving President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, their endorsements.
I certainly thought both Merrick Garland and Neil Gorsuch would’ve had a much easier time receiving bipartisan support and Senate confirmation since they tend to be more moderate than extreme (like Scalia was). By the way, the late Justice Scalia was UNANIMOUSLY confirmed in 1986, and he was politically as far to the right as possible. This just goes to show how divided today’s Congress really is and how unwilling they are to compromise. I would have been fine with Garland, and I’m fine with Gorsuch. If pressed, I’d admit to having desired a more socially conservative judge, rather than a liberal one, to replace Scalia. However, the U.S. Supreme Court should be entirely about the law and not about political party affiliation.
After Donald Trump took office, I was actually hoping the President would utilize his unpredictability by nominating Obama’s pick, Merrick Garland, as his choice for the Supreme Court. I recognize that course of action would have been unconventional, to say the least, but I was rooting for a miracle nonetheless. I doubt if the vast majority of the population even considered such a thing, especially those supposedly representing us in Washington, D.C., but I think a generous move like that would have gone a long way in revealing Trump’s (hidden) bipartisan nature, and it would have gone a long way in immediately uniting Congress and possibly the country. Compromise is crucial – for a successful marriage – for an effective business negotiation – and for the U.S. Government…if it genuinely cares about its people. It really isn’t a bad word.