(June 16) Consider this a plea for a return to non-tribalist reasonableness, moderation, and decency.

News item: Ultraliberal Democrats say they won’t vote for federal “infrastructure” legislation because it doesn’t do enough. News item from four years ago: Ultraconservative Republicans kill efforts to repeal Obamacare, a long-stated goal of theirs, because they didn’t get everything they wanted in the relevant bill in the early stages of a lengthy legislative process.

News item from almost every battle on Capitol Hill for the past decade: Bills that contain a host of items that almost everyone agrees on get killed because one side insists on also getting items the other side can’t agree on. It’s the “I get everything I want or else I’ll leave the table” approach. It’s the approach of “I’d rather gain an issue on which to bash the other side than actually achieve at least a partial victory for the American people.”

And it’s an approach completely counter both to the American constitutional design and to common sense. James Madison and company designed the Constitution in a way that promoted incrementalism, consensus, and what Madison called in Federalist 37 the “spirit of moderation.” Even through the 1990s, the habit of Congress was for each “side” to fight for as much of its priorities as possible but then, in the end, to accept as much as all sides could accept while leaving the rest of their desires for later battles.

That attitude has been replaced with an “all or nothing” mentality, which tells conservatives their main job is to “own the libs” and tells liberals that nothing less than “transforming America” is acceptable — and that the transformation must be rapid, almost revolutionary.

This is deeply un-American and, frankly, self-defeating.

If you really believe new infrastructure is important, and you can get, say, $500 billion worth, then isn’t it better to accept the $500 billion rather than holding out for a full trillion dollars’ worth and instead getting precisely zero?

Yet the fault isn’t just with today’s politicians. They take cues from an increasingly polarized, impatient, and immoderate public….

[The full column is at this link.]


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