Editorial: Can compromise return to politics?

Published 9:05 am Thursday, November 8, 2012

Experts, pundits and talking heads are trying to make sense of the results of the election, and there is a fair share of conclusions to draw. However, the  big, overarching one is this:

Obstructionist politics don’t work.

Politicians cannot go off to St. Paul, Washington or wherever they must gather to legislate, refuse to compromise with the other party at all, then go on the campaign trail and declare that the other party didn’t accomplish anything.

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That’s the strategy Sen. Mitch McConnell and the Republicans described in the past two years when saying they intended to limit President Barack Obama to one term.

And that’s the strategy Minnesota Republicans took when battling Gov. Mark Dayton on the state budget that resulted in a pitiful government shutdown in 2011. For example, recall that the state GOP strangely wouldn’t even use the ever-reliable, party-neutral state economist’s budget figures.

Voters are smarter than that, especially Minnesota voters. They might not always understand the crazy ins and outs of getting bills through committees, past parliamentary rules and onto floors — but they know results.

Sure, it’s fair enough in politics to seek to defeat an opponent after a single term. Voters on Tuesday showed the way to do that is like what President Ronald Reagan and the Republicans did to limit President Jimmy Carter to one term in 1980. They can win on principles and a clear message.

Voters showed that getting work done, then battling over the credit, is a better way to go. They showed that political parties are supposed to be hunting for the direction of the future of the country, not seeking to freeze the country. The 112th Congress was one of the least productive ever.

Republicans and Democrats in Minnesota and nationwide should be on notice in the wake of the results Tuesday. Find the middle ground. Get the work done. Show courage, not intransigence. Make compromise part and parcel of the job of being an elected leader once again.