Now comes the hard part: Compromising.
Yes, compromise. Bipartisanship. Working across the aisle to govern where most people are: in the middle.
And that’s indeed where most of us are, right? Somewhere in or near the middle, with ideas, viewpoints and positions that may cross party lines depending on the issue. Thats’ where I am.
Proof came on Tuesday.
- South Milwaukee is a 50-50 city, one that sided with three Democrats (Barack Obama, Tammy Baldwin, and Gwen Moore) and a Republican (Mark Honadel).
- Wisconsin is a 50-50 state, one that put a Republican-led legislature in control at the same time they supported Obama and Baldwin.
- The United States is a 50-50 country, one that re-elected Obama and a Democratic Senate … along with an overwhelmingly Republican House.
And in most cases, races were tight, split almost down the middle.
Lawmakers on both sides would be wise to remember that. I fear they won’t.
Instead, I fear they will see Tuesday’s election as a mandate and try to govern in their interests, neglecting to remember that about half of their constituents likely disagree with them.
They’ll certainly tell us they’re willing to work with their counterparts to advance good ideas, Democratic or Republican, and that they’ll truly compromise. They’ll talk about bipartisanship … then most likely firmly vote the party line on legislation that doesn’t reflect any notion of input from the opposition.
They’ll do this because partisanship is easy.
Extremism — ignoring the other side and ramming through an agenda simply because you can, because you happen to have a few more votes in your legislative body than the other party – is simpler than the alternative.
Compromise is that alternative. And it’s hard.
It’s hard to admit you don’t have all the answers, that the opposing party may have good ideas, too. It’s even harder to then engage the other party in bringing those ideas to life. And it’s still harder to write legislation that incorporates those ideas, and get it passed.
There are a couple good tests of this coming soon.
First, there is that much-publicized “fiscal cliff” looming in Washington D.C., where a combination of significant tax increases and spending cuts may automatically take effect on January 1 – unless the president and lawmakers can make a deal to avert them. It’s a deal that will require both sides to give up something they want so we can avoid signficant damage to our economy.
In Wisconsin, we have the mining bill. South Milwaukee Rep. Mark Honadel has said this is his top priority when the new Assembly is seated, and I’m interested to see which version sees the light of day: the version that passed the Assembly last year, one that was too extreme for even some Republicans, or something that resembles the compromise version that nearly passed in the end.
Both cases — and many, many more — scream for bipartisanship, lawmakers working together to come up with common-sense solutions that reflect Tuesday’s election results and the divided state of the city, state and country.
Will legislators recognize this and act accordingly? We’ll see.
A quote from former Democratic State Sen. Tim Cullen from earlier this year still stays with me. He said: “I came to Madison as a centrist, and I discovered there was no center.”
We need more center.