It’s hard to imagine the greatest country in the world without compromise. In fact, it’s impossible.
Our foundational document, the Constitution, was an incredibly delicate balance between large states and small, rural and urban citizens, industrialized and agricultural interests. The reason we have two houses of Congress is actually called “The Great Compromise.”
California is setting a functional example for the rest of the country. As gridlock overwhelms Washington, our Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown have worked together to get things done.
Lately, compromise is out of style. Our national politics are all about ideology and bitter infighting, with lots of drama and no room for consensus. California, with all the competing interests and passions that go into governing this important state, has been a beacon of bipartisanship – and we want to keep it that way.
The founding fathers we idolize were full of passion for their different ideals – some of their bitter fights would not look out of place in today’s cable news – but when the time came to roll up their sleeves in Philadelphia and deliver for the future of our country, they sought common ground.
From climate change to immigration to voting rights to housing, California has important work to do, and the world is watching to see whether it’s possible anywhere in America for the two parties to work together. It’s time to embrace the role compromise has played in the unique history of the United States and acknowledge that the work of those we choose to represent us today is impossible without some give and take.
That doesn’t mean any of us should give up our deeply held beliefs, passions and ideologies.
We run for office as proud Republicans and proud Democrats. But when we win, it’s time to change our mindset. There’s a reason that after we are elected, the party becomes an (R) or a (D) following our names in parentheses. Whether governor, senator, or assemblymember, the title is what’s important.
It isn’t easy to shift gears to public servant from party servant, but it’s a necessity.
I remember countless negotiations where the phrases “Everyone can’t get a 10, so we’re all going to be happy with a 7 or an 8” and “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of possible” were the backbone of deals that ultimately improved California.
No matter the compromise, activists on both sides were often enraged. That’s perfectly fine – the beauty of the American system is that everyone gets a voice and a vote. Those activists, while sometimes a thorn in our sides, are doing their jobs. Besides, you haven’t really experienced politics until someone puts up a giant billboard attacking you.
Legislators are representatives of the people; their primary job is to negotiate and pass laws, not to shout and tweet. If you want to serve your party, write a blog or join the party committee. If you want to serve the people, you must be willing to let your party become a parenthetical; your first responsibility is doing all of the people’s work. Sometimes, that means compromise. It isn’t a dirty word. It’s the job.
California is setting a functional example for the entire country. As gridlock overwhelms Washington, our Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown have worked together to get things done.
I was proud that Assemblyman Chad Mayes and seven other Republicans helped the governor extend California’s historic cap and trade system. But compromise is a two-way street. Republicans were able to deliver a deeply needed extension of the manufacturing tax credit, along with provisions to protect our agricultural industry and put hard-earned money back in taxpayers’ pockets. All Californians won.
I hope California will continue to be a model for the country. I hope our Democratic and Republican leaders will continue to find the issues where they can work together instead of hiding in their ideological corners. You can have bitter fights – trust me, it makes great TV. But remember to get some work done, too.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California from 2003-2011. Contact @schwarzenegger. He wrote this for The Sacramento Bee.