Compromise and Subtlety are Becoming Dirty Words

Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

For those on this blog who are still lamenting the actions taken by “progressive” Democrats in the 2020 and 2021 General Assembly sessions, it might turn out that you ain’t seen nothing yet.

In the Senate, several members of that Democatic caucus are retiring or have moved on to Congress (Jennifer McClellan) and will be replaced with younger members. Furthermore, as described in today’s Washington Post, three incumbent Senate Democrats are being pushed hard by primary opponents. The opponents’ beef is not on policy. Rather, they contend the incumbents were not progressive enough, were not aggressive enough, and were too willing to compromise with Republicans. As Heidi Drauschak, who is challenging Sen. Dave Marsden (Fairfax), put it, “We just haven’t been bold enough.”

This is another indication of the nationalization of Virginia politics and the dangerously alarming push to divide politics into two warring sides with no compromise with the other side tolerated. The far left wing of the Democrats voted against the debt ceiling bill, needed to avoid economic chaos, because President Biden dared to compromise with Republicans (although the general consensus is that the Democrats got far the better end of the bargain).

The far right of the Republicans voted against the debt ceiling deal and continue to gum up the legislative machine, because Kevin McCarthy, the House Speaker, dared to compromise with the Democrats.

In another recent development, on our southern border, North Carolina Republicans censured one of their own, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis. What was his sin? Had he been indicted by a federal grand jury? Had he had multiple extra-martial affairs? Had he been credibly accused of sexual misconduct? No, his “sins” consisted of supporting the same sex marriage act and working with Democrats on gun violence legislation. As one North Carolina Republican put it, “We need people who are unwavering in their support for conservative ideals.”

Stark differences and demonizing one’s opponent are not new developments in American politics. The fights between the Jeffersonian Republicans and the Federalists were downright nasty at times and politics was rough in the Jacksonian era. The country even engaged in a bloody civil war over its differences. But today’s acrimony and punishment of compromise is new in the modern era. I miss the days when Tip O’Neil, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat and Speaker of the House of Representatives, played golf regularly with Dan Daniel, the ultraconservative Congressman from Danville, Va.