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Governing from a compromising position

I've written about the immigration issue in this country a few times previously (here, here, and here).  Today, it looks like there may be some progress on getting some sort of immigration bill passed.

This issue has been really affected by polarizing politics in this country.  There are factors of declining real wages of the lower and middle classes, large influx of illegal immigrants who are willing to perform lower wage jobs, employers willing to violate the law in order to hire lower wage workers, concerns about cultural fragmentation due to an influx of people who don't speak English or follow other American traditions, entangled thoughts about national security from open borders, and much more.  Any solution short of deporting all 12 million illegal immigrants runs the risk of being branded as amnesty (which, I guess, is a bad word to some).  At the least, most people would agree that people who came here illegally shouldn't get an advantage in becoming a citizen over someone who tried to follow a legal process.

And, we have at least 12 million mostly-hard working people who have settled here and become part of our communities.  Do we really want countless raids going on in this country, separating illegal immigrants from their US-born (and US-citizen) children, as we try to send them all somewhere else?

I'm glad to see that there seems to be some spirit of compromise, starting with President Bush (whom I almost never agree with).  He convinced some Republican Senators to re-start this issue.  I agree with Bush that the status quo is unacceptable.  We need to reconcile ourselves to some solution that addresses this issue.  It's way too complicated for everyone to be satisfied with the ultimate legislation.  In fact, I am sure that no one will be satisfied with the result.  But, it's going to be better than the status quo.

There hasn't been enough compromise in today's political climate.  This has led to either bad policy or stalemates.  In the end, we all lose.  We can gain much more if we have spirited debate and all try to form a workable solution.  There's always the next legislative session to try to make it better.  The status quo, on so many issues, is unacceptable.

Here's a quote from Ronald Regan on compromise.  He seems very practical in today's context:

"When I began entering into the give and take of legislative bargaining in Sacramento, a lot of the most radical conservatives who had supported me during the election didn't like it.

"Compromise" was a dirty word to them and they wouldn't face the fact that we couldn't get all of what we wanted today. They wanted all or nothing and they wanted it all at once. If you don't get it all, some said, don't take anything.

"I'd learned while negotiating union contracts that you seldom got everything you asked for. And I agreed with FDR, who said in 1933: 'I have no expectations of making a hit every time I come to bat. What I seek is the highest possible batting average.'

"If you got seventy-five or eighty percent of what you were asking for, I say, you take it and fight for the rest later, and that's what I told these radical conservatives who never got used to it.


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I beg to differ. A 377 page document that none of the principles read is the definitive artifact of a deal cut in haste. YOU wouldn't do that in backing a startup I wanted to you to fund. The stakes in this case are MUCH higher, and in one of the few relevant examples of the Wisdom of Crowds, citizens reacted appropriately.

When someone DOES stake out the moral high ground in terms of what is best for everyone involved, then people will listen. But I predict that this will not happen until after the presidential election, because no one in Washington today shows any sign of concern for anybody more than 10 miles beyond the Capital rotunda. And polls show that the rest of us know it.

Laves and I have speculated that the solution to the problems in the Middle East is to buy the Mexican province of Baja and relocate Israel there. The climate and terrain is identical to their present home. Do you have any doubt that within 5 years the New Israel would dwarf the entire economy of the western hemisphere south of the U.S. border?

I'm guessing no.

Our immigration problem can't be solved by legislation in Washington. As long as the countries south of here are run by kleptocracies, people will risk life and limb to come here at any cost. Remember when Reagan solved this problem in the 80's? So do a lot of citizens, and the old saying "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" is ringing in their ears.

I'm sorry to prattle on so long, but until someone starts to think outside the tired old rhetorical boxes that the Inside the Beltway crowd lives in, we aren't solving the problem.


Well, if you look at what happened with immigration, Mike, there was no deal cut. People got too stuck on their moral high horses and wouldn't compromise. Instead, there is no progress on this divisive issue because no one wants to be seen as too weak or too tough.


I recall from several Reagan biographies that the strategy he learned as SAG president was "stake out the moral high ground; then cut a deal!" I see a lot of the latter from everyone in Washington, but virtually none of the former. Everyone seems to be rushing to get the issue behind them for the next election cycle, but that's not what governing and/or leadership are about.


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