Friday, January 07, 2005

Who remembers when compromise was good?

Congress certified the 2004 presidential election results this week, and that was part of the discussion today on The Diane Rehm Show. A phone-in participant recalled the pleas in Congress last year to create a paper audit trail in some of the big states that were moving rapidly into electronic voting. You probably remember that the Republicans put up a solid front against that effort. In retrospect, I don't think they had much to fear from the opposition in terms of winning the election. But they followed what seems to be Rule 1 of the Republican playbook: Whatever the Democrats want, they can't have.

This automatic opposition has been practiced by both of our major political parties, but the Republicans seem to have made it the invariable rule in their legislative program. Last year's efforts to extend Medicare coverage to prescription drugs are a case in point. The president's proposal could have gone through a lot sooner if the party leaders had been willing to rely on Democratic crossover votes -- votes that could have been had at a modest price in revision of the bill. But the leaders wanted an all-Republican bill to campaign with.

Whatever happened to the idea that politics was the art of the possible? When exactly did it become absolute war? Is there anyone who thinks our country is stronger or better because of this change?

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