Right to the Point

What happened to compromise?

Jan. 27, 2011

By Kayla Purvis

The House Republicans did not vote to repeal the health care bill because they thought it would pass in the Senate. They did it because it is a symbolic gesture. Many Democrats play it like the Republicans really thought the vastly Democratic Senate would vote in accordance.

It is symbolic on both sides. The Democrats knew the Republicans would immediately try to knock “Obamacare” off the table and, equally, the Republicans knew that the Democrats would shoot it down.

So, why are both parties scoffing at the other? This is not a new thing — it’s hard-headed American politics. Politicians on each side want to show their constituents that they are doing what they believe they were elected to do. The Republicans believe, based on the November elections, that they have a duty to cut spending. On the other hand, the Democrats believe that they had a duty to the American people to provide health care services.

What I would like to know is why Congress insists on the back-and-forth party rivalry. We will get absolutely nowhere because both sides — Republicans and Democrats — cannot let go of the competition. Neither party wants to compromise on the issue. That is our biggest downfall. We will not do anything constructive if we cannot remember what it means to compromise, to come to a place where we can agree on something. Neither party is willing to give something up.

The House Republicans, led by John Boehner, have attempted to bridge the party gap, at least a little bit, with things like Tuesday’s State of the Union seating chart. They have also tried mixing up “politics as usual” by reading the Constitution (in its entirety) in session. This shows at least an honest effort by Congress to end the trend of ignoring the American people.

I have addressed the issues with our current party system before: “There is this idea that it is possible to pacify every group, while simultaneously our party system is driving the country in two,” I wrote in this space on Sept. 30, 2010. In school, it seems like we are always trying to find out what someone’s political beliefs are, because somehow it matters.

Young people are taught more and more to be less open to the statements that come out of the mouths of the other party. Obama recently referred to Republicans as “enemies.” Congress is supposed to be a collaboration. Of both parties! Yes, when there is a majority, it will lean more to that side. But we need to stop automatically rejecting what comes off the other party’s table.

The government is not supposed to be a competition between opposing viewpoints. Yes, that will happen. But I am saying that that is not the purpose of the government. The bare bones purpose of the government is to provide safety, write laws and enforce laws — to do what’s right for the country. The Republicans and the Democrats in Congress both represent the ideas and beliefs and desires of the American people. So when the president says something about Republicans being the enemy, how do you think that makes that U.S. citizens feel? How about when Republicans accuse liberals of a socialist agenda? All this is doing is aiding the growth of our faulty political system.

Congress is not supposed to be a gathering of representatives and senators that bash each other’s ideas. It is supposed to be a meeting of the minds during which discussions and debates take place to improve the welfare of the American people. When is the last time that happened?

So no, the vote to repeal the health care was not about the stupid Republicans or the power-hungry Democrats. It was a call to change. It was the House saying, hey, we would like to make some changes to this. It was symbolic because it meant that the Republicans are doing what they said they would do, and the Democrats are doing what they said they would do. Has anything really changed?

And I believe that both parties need to listen and be willing to work toward something they can both agree on. Sacrifice, people. It’s called sacrifice. Ask the Greatest Generation what that means if you can’t remember.

We’re taught from a young age that if you can’t resolve a conflict, you compromise. It kind of seems like Congress skipped kindergarten.

Williston resident Kayla Purvis is a senior at Champlain Valley Union High School.