Where’s the real compromise?

Ian Sams

Last week, President Barack Obama held a health care roundtable discussion with administration officials and leaders from both parties in Congress. In the end, not much was accomplished, and the health care reform efforts of the president and Democratic leaders in Congress seem to be no closer to passage than they were before the bipartisan meeting.

If anything, last week’s meeting showed us all that cameras, congressional leaders from opposite parties and a rookie president don’t mix well.

While I laud Obama for what I believe to be a sincere desire for open dialogue and constructive compromise, a late-in-the-game roundtable was always destined for failure.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are diametrically opposed on how to reform our nation’s health care system. True dialogue is seemingly impossible in our current hostile political climate.

From the beginning of the meeting, Republicans took their opportunities to speak as “open mic night” for slamming the Democrats’ agenda.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., utilized such hackneyed rhetoric that the president jumped in and reminded him that “the campaign is over, John.”

Democrats did a little better, only chiding Republicans for failing to compromise and utilizing harsh, false, and inflammatory rhetoric against all of their proposals.

The presence of television cameras and print media in the room only exacerbated the problems. We saw political posturing of the grandest kind, and we saw absolutely no real effort for substantive conversation—except from President Obama.

To me, the Democrats scored plenty of political points. The Republicans came across as merely oppositional and lacking any substantial ideas to counter Democrats’ proposals.

They looked shallow and hollow, and the Democrats called them on it.

But the Democrats got no closer to passing their reform efforts. The political points were scored, but the progress of their agenda stalled even further.

What we need to see is true dialogue going forward. Instead of putting Obama, the majority and minority leaders from the Senate, the speaker of the House, and other congressional leaders in a room with cameras rolling, why doesn’t the president spearhead a substantive compromise effort?

Instead of making bipartisan meetings media events, invite leaders from the Republican Party to the White House and quietly get their opinion.

Bipartisanship and compromise aren’t buzzwords that need to be thrown in the country’s face. We don’t need to see meetings where Democrats and Republicans bicker incessantly. We want to see action—whether it stems from closed-door conversations or not.

The time for looking bipartisan is over. It’s time to actually be bipartisan.

We saw last week that, under the right circumstances, at least five Republicans in the Senate are willing to work with and vote with the Democratic majority on Democratic legislation.

Going forward on health care, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and President Obama need to find a way to gain those Republicans’ support on health care. Utilize those five senators as your primary partners in compromise, because they’ve shown a willingness to do so.

It takes a spirit of compromise to actually achieve bipartisanship. Most of the Democratic majority in Congress has ignored that spirit. Even more of the Republican minority has shunned it completely.

If this president and this Congress are going to enact meaningful reforms for the American people, it’s time to end the political posturing, put away the TV cameras, and roll up some sleeves to achieve real compromise.

Ian Sams is a junior majoring in political science. His column runs weekly on Monday.