View from a Volcano

Like most Americans, I have been dismayed and disappointed by the tenor of rhetoric coming from Washington in recent months, particularly during the recent debt-ceiling debates. I have a hard time understanding why it seems so difficult to get anything done.

But a graphic in the most recent issue of The Economist helped me understand a little better.  In a poll conducted from July 23-26, 2011, Democrats and Republicans were asked, “Would you rather have a congressman who compromises to get things done or sticks to his or her principles, no matter what?”

Take a look a the results of the poll in graph form (, and you will see an almost perfect mirror image. Just shy of 70 percent of Democrats prefer compromise, while almost the exact same percentage of Republicans back the never-give-in stance.

What one person sees as a compromise, someone else sees as “caving in.” What one side sees as intractable idealism the other side sees as a principled stand. When viewed that way, I guess I can understand why volcanic venom seems to spew from every political debate these days.

But even if I understand why these political eruptions seem to be occurring with increasing frequency, it doesn’t make me feel any better about them. In fact, it makes me feel like I’m living far too close to an active volcano.

August 2, 2011

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