I hear lot of people talking these days about how our system of government has become broken.
I would tend to agree.
I have been watching politics for more than 30 years now. The partisan divide in Congress is as sharp as I have ever seen it.
I used to think that was a good thing. I used to be a fan of Washington gridlock. Being a proponent of smaller, smarter government, I surmised that as long as Congress wasn’t passing any laws, at least government wouldn’t grow.
I suppose I still feel that way to a degree, but lately I’ve been thinking that we really need input from both sides of the aisle in Washington for there to be meaningful legislation that would help get this nation back on the right track.
In times like these, more than ever we need our leaders to practice the fine art of compromise.
Unfortunately, I see little chance of that. I think we can quite comfortably  and accurately refer to compromise as a lost art instead of fine art.
But why?
Well, I’ll tell you why.
There seems to be this notion of ideological purity being foisted upon folks from both side of the political spectrum.
No one is quite conservative enough or liberal enough to suit their party.
Liberals are upset with President Barack Obama because he’s not liberal enough. He should have held out for single-payer when he crafted health care. He should have reformed immigration laws and granted amnesty to undocumented immigrants.
At the same time, conservatives are upset with the likes of John Boehner because he’s not conservative enough. He should have shut down the government instead of caving in to the president. He should have defunded Obamacare.
So when you have leaders being pulled farther and farther away from middle ground by their respective parties, there is virtually no room for compromise.
Compromise and you’re weak. Compromise and we will run you out of office. Just watch us.
This ideological purity creeps – no, bursts – into the electoral process.
These days, moderates or centrists from either side of the aisle have little or no chance of winning a primary election. That’s because the most politically active people are the ones recruiting and supporting the candidates.
Average Joes don’t get involved.
That fact, until recently – and by recently I mean the last three or four election cycles – was not that big a deal.
That’s because even the most politically active people in earlier times were more centrist, more moderate.
Back then, there didn’t seem to be the same level of demand for ideological purity. But today, that demand is excruciating.
So, for the most part, in primary elections all across the land, we have very few moderate candidates. If you’re not lockstep right wing on every issue, you’re a RINO – Republican In Name Only.
And even if a moderate candidate tried to run in a primary election, he or she would have little chance of winning.
Because with voter turnout hovering in the low teens of percentages in primary elections, only the most politically active people bother to vote. These people, of course, are the very ones that are pushing the ideologically pure candidates.
On to the general election, where districts at all levels have been gerrymandered for the advantage of one party or another. Voila, the perfect recipe for a virtually unbridgeable partisan divide.
I think Republicans tend to be more bent toward ideological purity than Democrats.
Consider poor Mitt Romney.
Roughly 4 million fewer Republicans showed up at the polls in 2012 than in 2008. There were several reasons for that, but mainly it was because Mitt Romney was considered one of those RINOs – not nearly conservative enough.
If those 4 million voters show up, the election might have turned out differently.
Sen. Richard Lugar was a dependable Republican vote in the Senate. Aha. Too old. To willing to compromise. RINO. We need a true conservative. What did we get? Democrat Joe Donnelley.
This scenario played out in several Senate races across the land. O’Donnell, Akin and Angle come to mind.
All ideologically pure. All defeated.
So here is some advice to wouldbe voters.
First and foremost – Vote!
You must register.
You must vote.
You are our only hope against those who want to foist ideological purity upon all of us. If enough of these ideologically pure candidates make it into office, civilization may grind to a standstill.
Next, make a list of issues that are important to you. Put them in order of importance. Put the most important issue at the top, then the next most important, and so on. You probably should come up with 8 or 10 issues.
Things like jobs, economy, immigration, energy, agriculture, education, marriage, foreign policy, abortion, guns, etc. Whatever is important to you.
Then, do just a little bit of Internet research and find out how each candidate feels about those issues.
But a little check mark by the issues on which you and the candidate see eye-to-eye.
Let’s say you’re a Republican and this is a general election. After going through your little exercise you find that the Democrat and you agree on five of eight issues and the Republican and you only agree on four of eight.
Sorry, you have to vote for the Democrat.
Do the same in the primary to help you choose between two Democrats or two Republicans.
If more people showed up to vote in primary elections and chose candidates in this manner – over time – more moderate candidates and fewer ideological pure candidates would wind up on ballots.
Maybe then, the lost art of compromise could return and our representatives would start doing what is best for one and all.
Well, that’s a stretch, but at least things might get a little better.