Compromise: Lost skill of leadership

The story has no sugar-coating:

The congressional committee tasked with reducing the federal deficit is poised to admit defeat as soon as Monday. …[There are] a host of measures set to lapse at the end of next month [not resolved] during nearly three months of negotiations.

This Supercommittee was supposed to include the best among our elected representatives – chosen to represent their political constituency but work with other viewpoints. Their failure is dangerous evidence that our government is being held hostage by those who would rather watch the nation stumble and fail to make an ideological point.

The law that created the Supercommittee also put in place across-the-board budget cuts that were called “Draconian” at the time. These were designed to make sure the Committee wouldn’t bog down: the alternative was just too dreadful. Too unfocused. Too random. Too clearly a cut without thought.

Some say the Tea Party or the Republicans are starving all stimulus from the economy to insure the Democrats will be tossed from office. Some say the Democrats are so intent on trying to spend their way out of a recession (and into election?) that even the near collapse of debt-mired European economies can’t stem their enthusiasm for further borrowing.

Our democratic system is grounded in the willingness for parties to recognize that there are some valid points in the view of the other side – and to compromise.

If a committee of our best and brightest representatives cannot do better than letting a dreaded axe fall on all parts of government, we have lost this most basic of governing and leadership skills.

The Occupy movement is formless, undirected, lacking an action plan, and all the rest. Nonetheless, it is naming the #1 problem facing the country. Whatever their motivations are, the leaders are not putting the good of the majority of Americans first.

As the UC Davis students shouted at the police who pepper sprayed them at a peaceful demonstration, “Shame on you.” Put aside the posturing and animosity long enough to take some positive action.


  1. It’s no wonder some people are just giving up and tuning out. No one seems to have a solution, no one seems willing to MAKE things work, and no one is listening to the other guy. Everybody wants only their own way.

    • This is a tough situation. When a skill is lost for a generation, subsequent ones have to reinvent it from scratch. While I never held up LBJ as a great moral leader, in retrospect I see that his wheeling-and-dealing passed the Civil Rights Act through a Congress with Representatives who were as committed to segregation as Tea Party members are to “no taxes.”. He got a skeptical AMA and a skeptical public to support the then-radical notion of Medicare.

      This happened in the LBJ era because negotiation and compromise was part of a politician’s skill set. It took powerful movements – Civil Rights was not an abstract theory when the Bill was written – and political leaders able to listen and deal with ideas contrary to their own. The modern approach is more like a game of chicken – waiting to see who will flinch or give first. So our so-called leaders have become expert at maintaining a position to the death — theirs or ours.

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