Suppose you offer a car dealer 95% of the sticker price for a car and the dealer responds with a price of 115% of the sticker price. If you don’t meet him in the middle at 105% of the sticker price, does that mean you haven’t compromised?

Suppose two chambers of Congress negotiate a bill and the President signs it. The bill isn’t passed as first submitted; a plethora of conference committees and amendment shape the bill into something that is tolerable enough that the minority party in either chamber doesn’t shut down the legislative process in response. Once that bill is signed into law, is it reasonable for minority party in subsequent Congresses to try to “compromise” on the legislation that was already compromised upon and then signed into law?

If you want to negotiate your salary or benefits package six weeks or six months after you accept a job, you’d better have a compelling reason why what was fair enough that you accepted it is no longer fair enough. If you try to renegotiate your salary before even starting your job, why would your employer take you seriously?

These examples aren’t very subtle. The Affordable Care Act is one of those pieces of legislation that was a compromise worked out over many months, with conference committees meeting and poison pills inserted, such as the part about congressional staffers having to use the health exchanges instead of having employer-paid health insurance like every other Federal full-time worker. Even before 95% of its provisions were in force, but after the bill was law, tea party sympathizers, to use a relatively polite word, were trying to re-legislate it without having any experiences to evaluate its efficacy with. They wanted to ignore the decision made, the deal arrived at, and “negotiate a compromise” that started at such an extreme position, almost any middle ground still would seem extreme compared to the settled legislation.

Many Republicans, both those elected in the tea party frenzy of 2010 and those who veered toward a more extreme conservative position in an effort to placate the tea party sympathizers, seem to have forgotten some fundamentals: the Democrats held the Senate after the elections of 2010 and 2012, and the President was re-elected despite all efforts by those tea party sympathizers and their moderately moderate, somewhat less extreme Republican allies. If those tea party legislators what to shout “I have to vote the way I told my electorate I would!”, Democratic Senators, even moderate Republican Senators, and the President himself have every right to make the same statement about their bases. It is absolutely predictable that in this scenario, the tea party zealots won’t get their way.

The first step in forging a compromise is to recognize that there are some things you want that you just can’t get. Whining that the opposition won’t compromise just because they won’t let you have only half of what have have no right to expect is disingenuous. The tea party legislators seem to refuse to accept this. They’d rather destroy the government and hope they come out on top than work to support and improve the government they were elected to guide.

Now, does anyone want to discuss the inadequacy of maps of the state of Alaska?


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