While the debate about “The Wall” has become a national discussion, the effects of the discussion in have manifested a recurring theme about the inability of our two parties to engage in meaningful compromise to find solutions for the good of the nation. The issue is about a wall along the Mexican border but the real, longer-term problem lays in the less penetrable walls in D.C.
It has become a cliché that the Democrats will oppose the Republicans (and let’s be fair, the same is true in the opposite direction) even when there’s moderate ground to agree on a path forward. While it’s as predictable as gravity it is nonetheless one of the largest concerns our nation faces.
The essence of our nation’s founding was underpinned by compromise. The far extremes of all conversations surrounding the secession from England, the manner in which the Revolutionary War was fought and the construction of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were all tempered by a majority middle. The end state was a foundation for the world’s strongest nation.
In the 18th century this “majority middle” took the time to hear the arguments from both ends of the spectrum, digest the information and come to rational conclusions. They were informed by many perspectives but in the end their answers were anchored to the question, “What is best for my country?” They were able to remain relevant and influential because they retained the courage to remain rational and reasonable. Contrast that with today’s government, in particular the current House of Representatives, which is unable to recognize that there is a moderate position. The two-party system, almost by definition, requires congressional members to vote in line with their party leadership politics…such that instead of asking, “What is best for my country?” they ask “What does my party want me to do?” Or worse, “What does my party leadership want me to do?”
The result is not only potentially bad legislative decisions but also collateral damage such as government shutdowns and furloughed Americans.
There has been plenty of discussion around the merits of fortifying our borders (I personally am an adamant proponent of not only physically fortifying our borders but also dedicating more assets for surveillance along the southern and northern borders). But where I think the nation would be best served is spending more time knocking walls down in D.C.
So what does “knocking walls down in D.C.” look like? In the end, the president’s $5.7 billion funding request for The Wall represented about 0.001 percent of the total FY20 budget request. So it’s reasonable and rational to assume the dollars weren’t the issue.
The real issues surround questions of effectivity, sufficiency and optics:
1. Effectivity: Would an extension of the current barriers even work?
2. Sufficiency: Would $5.7 billion be enough to do what is necessary and would that money be spent wisely and correctly?
3. Optics: Will my mainstream voters/constituents allow me to be objective about national security or am I more worried about what an extreme far left or right will think about me?
The answers to No. 1 and No. 2 can be easily measured and monitored. The House can approve the $5.7 billion and watch the spending and execution of that money like a hawk watches its next meal. If it goes poorly, they would be there to highlight both the ineffectivity and the insufficiencies of the plan. (“We told you!”) If it goes well, they take credit for their oversight and monitoring. (“We saved you!”)
But the No. 3 question prevents this type of compromise and moderation from getting consideration. What’s more ominous is the real answer to No. 3 can only be answered by our representatives. I suspect few have the courage to have this discussion beyond their own thoughts and feelings but time should tell.
We should collectively hope the aspirations of all extremes don’t compromise our ability to compromise and do what is right for our nation.
Michael J. Garcia