Between the Lines: Idealism vs. compromise

People get elected to Washington all of the time. That�s pretty obvious.

And especially when they are chosen by voters to satisfy an itch being felt by much of the nation�s population � as Democrats were in 2008 and Republicans were in 2010, be they members of the U.S. House, senators or the president � they no doubt may enter the halls of the Capitol building thinking, �This is our time. We have been given a mandate by the American people to get something done.�

There�s just one problem. Usually the main things they want �done� either don�t really jive with what the people want, or don�t address more pressing national needs.

Democrats, with a president in the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress beginning in 2008, focused on health care reform when they should have been focusing on the economy and specifically the nagging high unemployment rate that has been plaguing our nation.

Republicans, who won a majority of seats in the House thanks mainly to dissatisfaction with Congress (see the above paragraph) no doubt may have believed �this is our time� as they were sworn in as the controlling party of their chamber.

And, they are blowing it right now. Big time.

At the heart of the matter is this: it is never the Republicans� time, or the Democrats� time in Washington. Ideally, anyway. It is always �our� time, as in the American people�s time.

Nothing can change that fact. Not even the rather common practice of ideologues being elected to Congress. That�s something we guess has nearly always happened. And, to a point, there�s nothing really wrong with that. We�ve all been taught to follow our principles.

Idealism goes wrong, however, when principles are the only thing lawmakers use as their guide. It�s the easy way � the supposed �sticking� to one�s guns � to somehow appear virtuous and garner a bit of sympathy and maybe even rally a few defenders.

While accomplishing nothing.

If Kristi Noem is indeed the politician she wants us all to believe she is, we would be seeing some indication by now that she is willing to compromise as the debt ceiling talks drag on and on.

Instead, she�s just tagged along with her Republican colleagues in the House and voted for a bill calling for cutting federal spending by $6 trillion and requiring a constitutional balanced budget amendment be sent to the states in exchange for averting a threatened Aug. 2 government default.

It is a measure that has no chance of surviving in the Senate. If by some fluke it would pass the Senate, the president would surely veto it.  We�re pretty sure Noem knows this is a bill with absolutely no future.

She voted for it anyway. Noem will probably cite �principle� to defend her support for a measure doomed to fail.

There�s another trait most of us hope the people we elect to office will demonstrate. It�s nothing rare; it�s used quite often not just on Capitol Hill but also in the day-to-day lives of millions of successful Americans.

It�s called compromise.

It�s a characteristic badly needed in our nation�s capital right now, as the debt limit deadline grows closer.

President Obama has shown willingness to compromise on this issue. As we make this observation, we don�t hold back our criticism of the president; this issue perhaps wouldn�t be magnified to such an enormous extent if he had taken concrete steps months ago to address the issue of the deficit.

Nonetheless, he at least appears willing to come up with a viable solution. As David Brooks opined in the New York Times earlier this week: �He (Obama) floated certain ideas that would be normally unheard of from a Democrat. According to widespread reports, White House officials talked about raising the Medicare eligibility age, cutting Social Security by changing the inflation index, freezing domestic discretionary spending and offering to pre-empt the end of the Bush tax cuts in exchange for a broad tax-reform process � The combined effect would have been to reduce the size of government by $3 trillion over a decade. That�s a number roughly three times larger than the cost of the Obama health care law. It also would have brutally fractured the Democratic Party.

�But the Republican Party decided not to pursue this deal,� Brooks writes, �or even seriously consider it. Instead what happened was this: Conservatives told themselves how steadfast they were being for a few weeks. Then morale crumbled.�

Tuesday�s vote by House members did nothing to restore that morale. Noem�s only forthright statement on the debt ceiling issue � she said last Thursday she wouldn�t vote to raise the debt ceiling unless it is attached to significant spending caps or a balanced budget amendment � is incredibly unrealistic.

Caps and the amendment were what Noem�s vote on Tuesday was all about. And it�s doomed to fail.

She told a crowd in Brandon last week that such action would be �a step in the right direction.� There�s just one problem. It�s not a step at all. It�s an idea that was dead from the start and will solve nothing. Noem is not accomplishing anything right now. And our lone representative in the U.S. House seemingly won�t budge.

We remain hopeful that reasonable members of the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate will work with the president and eventually come up with a viable plan to solve the looming debt limit problem and the host of other ills Congress should be trying to correct right now.

We also remain hopeful that eventually Noem will �get it,� and someday join that �reasonable� crowd.

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