Tuesday’s elections swung the power in Congress into the hands of the Republicans. Many Democrats, myself included, couldn’t understand why anyone paying attention to what was going on would vote for a Republican.
Many others seem to believe both parties are at fault. There might be some truth in that. One of the biggest complaints is neither party is willing to negotiate. Nobody on the right or left is willing to compromise. But the actual fact of the matter is, both parties have tried to negotiate, but the problem is something called the Compromise Gap.
What is the compromise gap? I’m glad you asked and what better way to illustrate it than with a graphic? Why, with two graphics, of course.
Graphic 1 illustrates how things used to be. The line represents the entire political spectrum; the farther right you go, the more conservative you become and the farther left you go the more liberal you become. In the center lie the America people, mostly moderate, not too liberal, not too conservative, just right.
The GOP and the Democrats traditionally occupied the circled areas, fluctuating along the line from more so to less so year to year, but never really deviating all that much between 4 and 5 for the GOP and 6 and 7 for the Dems.
The fringe groups occupy the farthest extremes on the scale. Representing the right wing extremists are the Christian Right, now joined more recently by the Tea Party. I didn’t bother to make a circle for the radical left, because as I’ll explain, they don’t have much of an affect upon the movement of the Democratic Party as a whole.
For years, the GOP and the Dems haven’t had very far to go to reach the center, where the majority of Americans await. It was easy to compromise on many issues. The two parties negotiated readily and those involved were often viewed as statesmen.
But then, the Tea Party and the Christian Right began to gain political clout, winning elections on their extremist platforms. With each new success, their political reach grew and the GOP was sucked across the political spectrum by their strengthening gravitation field, pulling the traditional Republicans farther and farther to the right.
Graphic 2 shows how things are today. The Tea Party and Christian Right still occupy the extreme right position, but now the traditional Republicans have been dragged over and occupy positions 2 and 3 on the scale compared to their previous position of 4 and 5, whereas the Democrats haven’t moved at all.
So there are several things at play here. First, many conservatives think the liberals have moved farther left, not realizing it is they, and they alone, who have moved.
Second, the Compromise Gap, once easily bridged has now grown into a political Ginnungagap, a vast, insurmountable frozen void that neither party is willing to cross for fear they’ll fall in and be destroyed.
Sure, both parties are still willing to negotiate the same 1 or 2 points left or right on the scale that they always have. And the Dems when negotiating are still crossing to the center where the rest of America as a whole still resides. And the GOP, likewise, is still willing to negotiate the same distance they did before, except for them, they now reside so far right that their attempts to compromise only land them solidly within the conservative spectrum, still many points away from center.
And it is the Republicans who decry the Dems for not being willing to cross the great divide while completely ignorant of the fact that they’ve moved so far right that even centrists seem like extreme liberals to them now.
It is not the Democrats’ fault at all that negotiations have often failed miserably, nor should anyone really expect them to move farther right than they already are.
The best the nation can hope for is a return to sanity on the side of the Republicans. Only by rejecting the fringe fanatical right wing and moving closer to center can we ever hope for the good old days of compromise and negotiation.