Growing up, I was taught that compromise is one of the most useful tools of conflict resolution. Children understand that if one person grabs the whole box of crayons, only one person gets to draw a kitty cat and a house. Compromise lets every kid have a shot at the action. Although it is less efficient to trade for the colors you need and let others borrow colors they need from you, at the end of the day, everyone has created a masterpiece.
Compromise is just as essential in government as it was in the first grade. But when did working together become so distasteful to the Republican Party that they are no longer willing to even express their opinions to the American people when President Barack Obama is present?
Despite the abundance of right-wing propaganda advising otherwise, it is in their best interest for Republicans to attend the nationally televised health care discussion on February 25. While many GOP leaders are tentative about the meeting, bipartisanship should be the least of their fears. Barack Obama has provided the Republicans with an open public forum in which to voice their grievances with the healthcare bill. They would be foolish to squander the opportunity to prove to the American people that its legislators aren’t still holding playground grudges and are willing to participate in the policy process. Since when did compromise become the new iteration of defeat?
What threat does an open mic pose to the Republican Party? Providing they don’t simply open mouth and insert foot, Republicans have been given a perfect opportunity to contrast their ideas on healthcare with those of the Democrats. While Democratic legislators are no doubt confident that their prescriptions for healthcare are in the best interest of the American people, Republicans deserve to voice their opinions as well. Concrete progress can be achieved through debate by displaying openness to competing viewpoints.
Republicans, afraid of being pulled across the aisle one by one, have adopted a deterministic stance in regard to the majority party’s actions. By demonizing the Democrats and Obama as socialist and elitist, the Republicans have painted themselves into a corner. After vehemently dismissing any action the Democrats have taken, it would be damaging to be seen working with members of a “socialist” party.
This is one mess that the Republicans have created for themselves. Such a black and white political philosophy has a rallying effect on staunch Republicans, but without true bipartisan action, our political system is reduced to winners and losers. I do not believe America is a country of winners and losers. I believe in representative government, in compromise, sacrifice, and debate. Both parties must work together, negotiating policies that represent the needs of the people. Republicans on Capitol Hill seem to have forgotten that this isn’t a win/lose situation. Complaint and suspicion of foul play serve only to further delineate political allegiance and preclude conflict resolution.
When children do not get their way, often the initial response is to storm off and pout. The current Republican solidarity looks suspiciously akin to adolescent stubbornness. Republicans, we are not out to get you. We are all Americans, all striving to protect America’s interests. Whether the debate is over healthcare reform, foreign policy, or who gets first turn on the swings at recess, remember that compromise and cooperation have always been our most powerful tools.