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Meanwhile, as useful as presidential leadership may be, "No president can prevail as long as Congress remains recalcitrant."
And the status quo, albeit for different reasons, is unacceptable to Democrats and Republicans alike.
Sticking with things as they are sounds like the conservative ideal, except in a moment of expiring tax cuts and mounting debt. Moreover, compromise is not only for the moderately inclined; the authors cite staunch partisan compromisers such as Ted Kennedy and Alan Simpson.
How to create more such lawmakers? Gutmann and Thompson discuss various potential solutions: reforming the filibuster, lengthening congressional terms, limiting the need for nonstop fundraising, and adopting open primaries that could mitigate the extremeness of candidates now produced by party primaries.
Still, these changes are simultaneously elusive and admittedly inadequate to the monumental task of carving out space for the compromising mindset to take hold. Gutmann and Thompson conclude with an exhortation from the Beatles: "You tell me it's the institution. Well, you know. You'd better free your mind instead."
The House and Senate are full of individuals who are better than the institutional constraints in which they operate. They chafe against the divisive imperatives of the permanent campaign. They yearn for the chance to strike a deal.
For these lawmakers, and for the voters who claim to value compromise, reading this book would be a good start.
It is silly to imagine that a new mindset can take hold overnight. But it is, equally, sad to conclude that the cause of compromise is entirely futile.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.