In the extremely divided chamber of the United States House of Representatives, President Obama uttered these words one week ago: “Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this Chamber that ‘the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress…”
We all have a propensity to stand up for what we believe in. We all have our own religious belief, or purposeful lack there of. We all have ‘stuff’ in which we’re interested in. We don’t all agree on how we should solve the world’s most complex issues, but we know that they need to be solved.
Our system is designed to make sure that one party doesn’t run the show, though many people wish it could go down that way. James Madison highlighted this concept in Paper Number 10 of The Federalist, “In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government. And according to the degree of pleasure and pride we feel in being republicans, ought to be our zeal in cherishing the spirit and supporting the character of Federalists.” James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, both Democratic-Republicans—not federalists—wanted to make sure that the national government would still represent and respect the views of the minority. Essentially in their view, the diversity of opinion would make our country stronger.
President Obama opened by reminding the American people and more importantly Congress that in this time of economic fragility, a changing climate, and a tumultuous Middle East, both Democrats and Republicans must work together to get things done. It almost sounds too cliché, but by opening with those words, Obama set the tone for the rest of the address in which he addressed issues ranging from universal pre-school education, toning down the war in Afghanistan, and instituting a bi-partisan voting commission, led by the top attorneys from his and Mitt Romney's 2012 campaigns, to address the inefficiencies in our voting system, and to request to House Republicans to pass the common-sense gun legislation that Joe Biden is championing.
We know that Obama is willing to compromise. He compromised (much to the disappointment of hardcore democrats) by making raising the tax rate on individuals making over $400,000 and families making over $450,000 a year, not the $250,000 he wanted. He has slashed spending by over a trillion dollars in 2011. He compromised when he responded to the outrage caused by the Mandate in Obamacare, which essentially mandated that the insurance companies of religious institutions provide birth control. He also noted in the State of The Union Address that he was committed to “maintaining the best military in the world,” so he will not be dramatically cutting military as Republicans have accused him of doing, unless lawmakers from both parties in Congress fail to pass legislation that avoids the sequester, which estimates show could cause the loss of over 750,000 jobs in addition to over $1 trillion in spending cuts (including in the military).
Obama is compromising, at least more than the Republicans are willing to admit. What remains to be seen is whether or not House Republicans are willing to come to the table and serve the needs of the American people (and stop every piece of legislation that passes the Senate.) This doesn’t have to be a total battle. Healthy debate is needed in all of these issues to make sure that some sort of compromise is needed. I asked my parents recently about partisanship in their youth, and they told me it was never as bad as the situation now. For the sake of my generation, I, and many Americans hope that we see more partnership and less partisanship.