Many Americans are angry and worried — about their homes, families and the future. Tea Partiers and Occupiers have become faces and voice of some of their displeasure. They don’t like the way some leaders lead. And they add to a feeling that compromising isn’t always the right answer to finding solutions.
Senator Brad Zaun, an Urbandale Republican, said, “I’m just not going to compromise on the issues that are very important to me.”
Zaun believes these are different times. Politicians share voters’ angst about the world around us. But they also feel the frustration of being able to do little about it. In the Iowa house, it’s the face of Republican domination where they have 20 more seats than the Democrats. In the senate, the difference is just two seats with the Democrats in control. So because of the numbers, even if something passes overwhelmingly here in the house because of the party power difference in the senate, it might not pass here or it might not come up for a vote at all.
Congress faces similar gridlock where Republicans have a clear majority in the house and Democrats have a slight control over the senate.
U.S. Representative Bruce Braley, a 1st District Democrat, said, “I’ll be very candid, that compromise is much more difficult to achieve now than when I came to congress in 2007.”
Braley knows outside factors, like money woes make compromise tough. But he also feels there’s a different attitude. Braley said, “People have been elected to congress to pursue rigid, ideological objectives and they don’t think compromise is what’s expected of them here in Washington.”
And when elected leaders don`t strictly follow those objectives, social media step in. Facebook, Twitter, and blogs give voters a new power to hold lawmakers accountable. Zaun said, “If you say something or you vote a certain way, it is instantly messaged out.”
Social media mean voters know a politician’s position as soon as the words leave his mouth. And if they don’t like what they hear, they’ll find someone else. In June, 15 of Zaun’s fellow statehouse Republicans had to fend off a primary challenge from other Republicans. But Zaun thinks that intra-party competition can actually be good. He said, “I think it’s healthy to get some new blood in there.”
Craig Robinson doesn’t think compromise is a dirty word in politics. Robinson is the former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa and founder of www.theiowarepublican.com. Robinson’s daily words don’t hide his leanings since his party is his website’s last name. His site is a must stop for thousands of politicos. He said, “Partisan politics has always been around. I think the difference now is that it’s a little bit more apparent.”
Technology means you can filter out the opposing side and surround yourself with only those who share your beliefs. Robinson admits that pushes people away from compromise but says that choice is up to you. He said, “I agree to a certain extent. But we also live in a society where I no longer have to buy an entire c.d. I can buy one song and put it on a playlist.”
But in politics, that means it`s becoming more rare to sing the same tune from that playlist. However, last month Iowans saw an exception to that. Bill Knapp, a very successful businessman and founder of Iowa Realty, spoke at an event in Des Moines. The fact that he supported the plan announced at that event promoting was to develop more skilled workers isn’t unusual. The unusual part was that Knapp is a Democratic megadonor and the plan comes from Republican Governor Terry Branstad.
Could Knapp have spoken those words of praise for a Republican in today’s climate if he were a Democratic politician? Knapp said, “You know I’ve reached a point where I don’t care what people think, you know, I don’t have to.”
Knapp is 86 and believes his decades in business made him wealthy and wise to the ways of dealing with people. He couldn’t name one deal where he didn’t compromise. Knapp said, “I’ll tell you, if you don’t compromise, you don’t make it.”
He joked, “I’d probably down to Bethel Mission (a Des Moines homeless shelter)because without compromise, you just can’t get anything done.”
Of course, he’s far from the road to poverty but fears an anti-compromise country could be on that path. Knapp lamented, “We’ll get to the place where politicians are going to have to work together or there’s disaster. So in some cases, it has to be like the drunk who has to go clear to the bottom before he can come back.”
Neither the Democrat in Washington or the Republican in Des Moines wants to see that. Congressman Braley said voters want leaders to work together. He said, “That’s what Americans and Iowans expect us to do in our towns and in our cities and rural communities.”
Senator Zaun said voters need to realize not everything is up for debate, though. He said, “There are certain areas you compromise on. But our principles, you should not compromise on.”
To compromise or not to compromise: it’s up the voters to decide when it’s time.