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Letter: Why Compromise Is the Exception

To the Editor:

America’s great political divide is one in which both sides, we liberals along with those conservatives, are at fault. Yes, House Republicans have been standard-bearers for obstructionism in the current Congress, and conservative talk radio the mouthpiece for an intolerant movement, but we liberals have to accept our share of the blame.

Valley News columnist Steve Nelson’s Dec. 9 commentary (“Conservatives Prefer to Battle Straw Men”) is a perfect demonstration. The column included what might be called “a typical Nelson” by stating a core liberal political position as fact: “First of all, men, who are the most vociferous right-to-life lobbyists, really don’t have standing to opine on women’s health choices.” For one thing, in my America, everyone has the right and standing to opine on anything they want. But the more important point is that what Nelson states as fact is not. For liberals, abortion is primarily an issue of women’s health choices; for conservatives, it’s primarily an issue of taking a human life. Those are moral positions, not facts.

The rest of Nelson’s Dec. 9 column accomplishes much the same compartmentalization. His statements about Obama’s 2008 election spurring increased gun sales ignore the central role of talk radio, the gun lobby and gun manufacturers, all seeking to make vast sums of money by claiming the Second Amendment to be under siege. It wasn’t just conservatives, but also greed. And while Nelson derides the desire of conservatives for “the unfettered right to express religion in public places,” he ignores the dramatic progress that liberals have made through the courts in recent decades in their goal to ban any expression of religion in public places. Returning American politics to a time when issues like these were resolved through compromise rather than confrontation is essential to the nation’s future.

Compromise should not be an exception reserved for fiscal cliffs and other self-imposed disasters, but that will require greater trust and tolerance from both sides for the valid positions of the other. In the current political climate, statements that denigrate the other side’s opinions as being contrary to alleged “fact” cheapen the political debate. Steve Nelson needs to try harder.

Jim Shea