“People are panicking after witnessing the reckless disregard for the Constitution and its limits on federal power. We are frightened by the rise of an omnipotent president capable of using his pen and his phone to implement whatever he fancies…
…The people have spoken. We demand a return to the rule of law, not of men.”, Julia Zawatsky, Bethesda, Md.
Real Compromise Will Require a Shift by the President
Voters will likely eschew compromise if compromise makes terrible policy bad policy.
In the aftermath of the midterm elections, William Galston grossly confuses the electorate’s purported support for “compromise” with its wanting to see the economy fixed (“A Two-Year Plan for Washington: End Gridlock,” Politics & Ideas, Nov. 5).
Perhaps Mr. Galston is interpreting the polls differently, but voters will likely eschew compromise if compromise makes terrible policy into merely bad policy. Who thinks the public would applaud compromise if it means pouring only half a bag of sugar into the economy’s gas tank instead of the full five pounds?
Republicans have been given an unequivocal mandate to obstruct, delay, defeat, and if at all possible, reverse the destructive policies promulgated by President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and the autocratic Harry Reid . The latter’s disabling of the federal government’s legislative process gave cover to progressives more interested in an ever-more powerful and intrusive government than in public policy intended to unleash entrepreneurial spirits, reinvigorate the economy and create jobs. That political cover, as of the start of the next Congress, is gone.
Agreement, if only on a number of narrow issues like approval of the XL pipeline or repeal of the 2% medical-device surtax, will be possible among competing Republican and Democrat interests in the House and Senate, but few believe the White House will be a willing party to such compromise.
People are panicking after witnessing the reckless disregard for the Constitution and its limits on federal power. We are frightened by the rise of an omnipotent president capable of using his pen and his phone to implement whatever he fancies. The people have spoken. We demand a return to the rule of law, not of men.
Mr. Galston notes that to reassure his base the president would have to “make clear that he is in no mood to surrender—and that in the interest of letting the legislative process work, he is prepared to defer confrontational executive action for a few months, but not indefinitely.”
In other words, Mr. Galston counsels the president to continue the politics he has pursued for the last six years: Stonewall any compromise that gives him less than all he wants, demonize the Republicans as uncooperative partisans and continue to trash his twice-taken oath to uphold the Constitution while issuing diktats to accomplish his partisan agenda.
Republicans need to refuse to play this game and find a way to bring it to halt now. If left unchecked, President Obama’s willingness to rule by decree will become institutionalized by future presidents and we will lose representative government to Hugo Chávez-like tyrants.
While compromise might be wonderful in market transactions where mutual exchange leads to mutual gain, the incentives within a zero-sum political game lead to poor outcomes. Money spent in one district will be money not spent in another, while public pronouncements aside, politicians will always work in their own self-interest maximizing vote harvesters, regardless of esoteric notions of general welfare. Compromise is sadly one of those platitudinous misnomers that hide a much more sinister backroom reality: politicians bribing each other on the taxpayers’ dime.
President Obama indicated before the election that he had a lot more executive orders up his sleeve but was holding back so Democrats would have better prospects for re-election. If he turns a deaf ear to Mr. Galston’s two-year plan for compromise and legislative action, perhaps newly empowered Republicans also should consider unconventional ways to end gridlock with an uncooperative executive branch. One would be for Congress to use its constitutional power of the purse to sharply cut the budgets of federal agencies which have overstepped the boundaries of the law and the Constitution, and perhaps reduce the bloated White House bureaucracy that has done so much harm.
To end gridlock President Obama must accept his own pronouncement that elections have consequences and that positions other than his are well-founded, stop the vilification and most important—accept some Republican ideas.
Scott J. Engers
Ann Arbor, Mich.