With polarization in Congress and across the country widening the gap between conservatives and progressives on every imaginable issue, it's probably time to forget about the two sides meeting in the middle on compromises to deal with the economy, the federal debt and myriad social issues.
After all, compromise only seems to happen when one side realizes its power base is slipping. Here, each side in every argument has a counter for every move by the other side. Heavily Democratic minority voters are becoming more numerous, but a conservative Supreme Court has allowed unlimited funding of election propaganda by the wealthy, large organizations and businesses. Checkmate.
Republican majorities in a number of red states have fashioned new electoral qualifications de-signed to make it harder for low-income (mostly Democratic) voters to cast ballots. Even when Democrats have the voter enrollment advantage, that edge can be neutralized. Checkmate.
President Obama and other Democrats gain with some voters by supporting choice for women and gay marriage, along with a number of other progressive issues. They also fire up social conservatives and evangelical Christians in many states -- sometimes enough to tip the scales in a swing state.
The balance of power between the red and blue positions is thus maintained, not unlike the days of Mutually Assured Destruction (or MAD) with the nuclear superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
In Congress itself, we have the Republicans in charge in the House and the Democrats in the Senate and the White House. The Supreme Court has tended to narrowly vote the conservative line, and it is expected to soon decide whether the Obama health care reform law is wholly or partly unconstitutional.
It isn't so much the political infighting that is exasperating to most Americans; it's the fact neither side wins, neither side loses, and nothing get done. Meanwhile, the debt climbs, the economy remains tepid and employment levels are painfully high.
Folks, this is not going to end through compromise, no matter how often cable TV "experts" bemoan the supposed good old days when that sort of thing happened in Washington and state capitals. Maybe it seemed that way for a few brief moments during the post-World War II boom, when the rest of the world was economically prostrate, but that was all and it's now history.
Decisive action by someone is what is required; someone's vision will have to prevail and that vision is going to have to produce results most Americans are happy with. But in order for this to occur, aren't structural changes strongly indicated? Without that, it may prove impossible for any party to ever gain a clear majority and govern effectively.
One obvious change would be to alter or junk the filibuster/closure rules in the U.S. Senate, which the Democrats could have changed at the beginning of the current session but didn't -- and this week Majority Leader Harry Reid was bemoaning that.
Also, do we need term limits at the state or federal level? That might help. Should we elect the president on popular votes alone? Why not?
Should we add justices to the Supreme Court to make it more difficult for one side or the other to pack the court -- and less likely either side would bother to delay a floor vote in the Senate on presidential nominees? Another attractive idea guaranteed to shatter the status quo.
Can't we come up with ways to ensure that electoral redistricting forced by population changes is done with a minimum of political intrusion, perhaps by a commission not directly controlled by political parties?
Couldn't we allow states more leeway to opt in or out of domestic federal programs, rather than have those who want to spend more subsidize states that refuse to spend more? Wouldn't this allow coalitions of states that believe in spending more on social programs, like Vermont? We would love to see that.
No one should fool themselves into believing that either conservatives or progressives will soon triumph and push through their agenda in full, or that compromise will allow both to split the difference for the good of the country.
However, instead of feeling hopeless, we could work to reform our over-engineered checks and balances that were designed in the 18th and 19th centuries and are now in dire need of tweaking.