Your Turn: Ideological purity hinders good policy

October 26, 2014


During my time in Congress, I had the privilege of being around for some of the most remarkable moments of bipartisanship in our country’s recent history. I witnessed the 1983 reform of Social Security, as well as the Tax Reform Act of 1986. I rejoiced with both Republicans and Democrats in 1989 as the Berlin Wall fell. In 1990, I cast my vote in favor of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We curbed gun violence in America through the bipartisan Brady Handgun Bill, and the means for our military to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime were decided by a cooperative Congress. The list goes on and on.

Regardless of the disagreements we held, it seemed as though there was no challenge insurmountable. Gridlock was not an option. On major issues, President Reagan and Speaker O’Neill were able to find the compromise necessary to move our country forward.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for today. Political brinksmanship is now the norm, and while it is easy to follow the crowd and place total blame on Republicans and the Tea Party, Democrats must accept our share of responsibility. After all, politics is a two-way street, and we have certainly made our fair share of mistakes.

As an example, we succeeded in expanding health care coverage for millions of Americans, a feat certainly worth celebrating, but have also made no effort to seriously address the debt crisis that will someday haunt our children. Despite efforts by some in both parties to address the issue of Social Security and Medicare insolvency, these important programs for millions of Americans continues to deteriorate. On the immigration front, though our president avoided the political ramifications of taking unilateral action on immigration reform, the humanitarian crisis persists.

Earlier this year, a Gallup poll indicated that the farthest-left liberal wing of the Democratic Party is larger than it has been in the last 20 years. The ranks of the Blue Dog Democrats, a caucus of moderate Democrats, are thinning, and conservative Democrats are becoming a rare breed in Congress.

Taken together, these factors are great news for ideological purity, but are toxic for good policy. That is why it is so important we safeguard against extremism in our party. The left must be willing to compromise with the right.

When I ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008, I promised to put Kansans ahead of any political party. I reached out to Democrats, Republicans and independent voters alike in the hopes of bringing people together for one purpose: to solve the big problems of our time. My conviction in the idea of strength through bipartisanship and unity remains as resilient as ever. I believe that together, we can still solve the big problems.

I am proud to stand with my young Republican friend, Thomas Wheatley, in a call for unity. This November, I ask every Kansan to cast aside partisan politics, and instead look to their conscience for guidance as they decide who will serve as their voice in government. Our country deserves nothing better than people who will serve with sound judgment, commitment to duty, and the recognition that democracy cannot survive without compromise.

Right now, our nation is looking for unity to make a comeback; let Kansas be the place where that happens.

— Jim Slattery served six terms in the U.S. House representing the 2nd District of Kansas. He currently is a partner in Wiley Rein LLP, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm that advises clients who have matters pending before Congress, federal agencies and regulatory bodies.


Steve King 2 years, 9 months ago

SS wouldn't be in jeopardy if Washington would keep their fingers out of the jar.

James Howlette 2 years, 9 months ago

It wouldn't be in jeopardy if they weren't so determined to declare it "bankrupt" and fix it by reducing benefits.

James Howlette 2 years, 9 months ago

I stopped taking this editorial seriously when he claimed - in one sentence - that Democrats had simultaneously expanded healthcare and ignored the "debt crisis." (Ahem - the ACA put us on better financial footing http://www.usnews.com/opinion/economic-intelligence/2014/06/20/cbo-confirms-obamacare-reduces-deficits)

And then he went on to talk about the tangental topic of SS and Medicare "insolvency" as if they were the same thing as the "debt crisis" to which he was referring. This pretty much proves that he doesn't know what he's talking about. First off, Medicare isn't "bankrupt" or "insolvent," and Obamacare actually helped it's financial stability. Secondly, Social Security is just fine and not about to turn into a ticking time bomb even if we don't raise the income cap (like we should.) http://www.fool.com/retirement/general/2012/10/15/5-huge-myths-about-social-security.aspx

That isn't to say that I disagree that there is ideological polarization right now or that we shouldn't evaluate candidates on an individual basis. I just think this editorial is full of a bunch of sloppy false-equivalency arguments and faulty reasoning to get there.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

34 years have gone by and all of the compromise by democrats has put the economy and job market in a disaster mode. The Koch/ALEC/GOP team believe compromise is their way or no way = major gridlock. Mr Slattery walked through revolving doors from the halls of congress to the halls of lobbyists.

Jim Slattery was always a very conservative Blue Dog Democrat who went along with Democratic Leadership Council thinking INSTEAD of working with the Democratic National Committee. The DLC thinking was financed with some Koch dollars.

Medicare Single payer Insurance was nowhere near his support as he stood by and likely stands by the insensitive medical insurance industry.

During Reagan/Bush Republicans and Democrats began seeing large numbers of USA jobs move off shore to the detriment of the USA. During Reagan/Bush hostile takeovers, questionable mergers and leveraged buyouts became the tools to finance moving millions of USA jobs out of America backed with what I call very risky lending practices by Wall Street banks. Republicans and democrats have suffered greatly.

Sending republicans from Kansas back to Washington D.C. and the statehouse would be reckless at best. The Koch/ALEC team would love that.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

Please Mr Slattery after decades of the following activity where is the room for compromise? Republicans and democrats of the USA have been sold off for too many decades.

--- Why does the GOP Deliberately crash the USA economy? at will? http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/09/did-republicans-deliberately-crash-us-economy

--- This GOP ENTITLEMENT - Bailing out The Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan Heist aka home loan scandal sent the economy out the window costing taxpayers many many billions and millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance.


--- This GOP ENTITLEMENT Bailing out the Bush/Cheney Home Loan Wall Street Bank Fraud cost consumers $ trillions, millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance. Exactly like the Reagan/Bush home loan scam. Déjà vu can we say. Yep seems to be a pattern.



--- This GOP ENTITLEMENT – Bailing Out Big banks. Bush/Cheney implied many financial institutions were at risk instead of only 3? One of the biggest lies perpetrated to American citizens. Where did this money go? Why were some banks forced to take bail out money?


--- Killing Social Security Insurance Is Not An Option. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2010/0111orr.html

--- Killing Medicare Insurance is simply not an option. http://www.thenation.com/article/159769/paul-ryans-plan-destroy-medicare

Bob Smith 2 years, 9 months ago

Bringing out the Golden Oldies again, Richard?

Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

Vote the Paul Davis/Jill Docking ticket they are going to have a messy house to clean up.

Kansas needs Margie Wakefield in Congress.

Vote Jean Schodorf for Secretary of State.

Vote Orman

Randall Allen 2 years, 9 months ago

It appears that Jim Slattery has left out another thing that both Democrats and Republicans are in agreement on---profiting from public service. He has been drinking the Koch brand Libertarian Kool-Aid that makes politicians determined to perpetuate the lies about Social Security insolvency and the manufactured "debt crisis." It is laughable that he describes the Tea Party as taking the "blame" for the gridlock and that we are just "following the crowd" ---because he is now espousing their agenda. Anyone who thinks that compromise is part of the Koch Tea Party agenda hasn't been paying attention---and that includes ex-Congressmen who now derive their income from happy millionaires. I do want to thank Jim Slattery for showing us his true colors. If he ever gets the whim to run again---we should all run away from him.

Andy Anderson 2 years, 9 months ago

Ideological purity hinders good policy?

News reports indicate up to 700,000 voters (most of them voting democrat) are not even US citizens. Obama is set to give what will serve as voter I.D. to millions more who will presumably also vote democrat. The Democrats have created a sham democracy.

Philipp Wannemaker 2 years, 9 months ago

Can you prove your claims? Quoting Fox News does not count, even remotely as a valid source.

Philipp Wannemaker 2 years, 9 months ago

Clicked your link, saw who and what it represents. Checked further on the editorial contributors When I got to Gingrich and Palin, could go no further. Needed a good laugh this morning after Royals loss. Your source is just as valid as Fox News, in plain English a complete joke.

Andy Anderson 2 years, 9 months ago

Your lack of diversity for thought is telling. Sheltering yourself from facts is what it is though.

James Howlette 2 years, 9 months ago

Irony award goes to penders. The study authors use phrases such as "our best guess" when describing how they extrapolated this out of a very small sampling of data that came from one line of a long survey. There's this https://www.maldef.org/truthinimmigration/Rebuttal_to_Heritage_Foundation.pdf if you'd like some diversity of thought with your tea.

Lawrence Freeman 2 years, 9 months ago

Quite a leap they make LOL

", with 339 non-citizen respondents in 2008 and 489 in 2010. For the 2008 CCES, we also attempted to match respondents to voter files so that we could verify whether they actually voted."

James Howlette 2 years, 9 months ago

339 self reporters in 2008, and they managed to find only 5 people that were "self reported and verified." They did not verify citizenship status, just looked to see that there was a vote by someone with that name. Then they assumed that everyone filled out the form accurately and that there wasn't a statistical sampling error. Seriously weak tea.

Steve King 2 years, 9 months ago

Uh yeah Andy you have a source for that lunacy?

Lawrence Freeman 2 years, 9 months ago

The only reference I could find was a Yahoo answers thread from 2008! ROLFLMAO!!!!!!!!

Carol Bowen 2 years, 9 months ago

Reading Slattery's and Wheatley's letters was encouraging. If nothing else, maybe people have learned from this year's campaigns. The quibbling and oneupsmanship has to stop at all levels, from Congress to newspaper blogs. We need to get our acts together to address real issues.

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