WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2016 —The two major political parties have often clashed on ideology. When the presidency and Congress are held by different parties, progress on the problems of the day can be slow; compromise is elusive and deals can’t be made. It’s gotten much worse in the last decade. It may be time for a deal-maker president.
The term “gridlock”was coined in New York City in the early ’70s to describe paralysis of the city’s traffic grid. When the president and Congress can’t agree on a solution to a problem, we say that gridlock stops progress. Only strong and confident leadership allows compromise when the two sides are at odds.
Today compromise is rare, leaving critical problems unresolved.
Strong leaders like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton worked with congressional leaders from the opposing party. They discussed their positions and tried to work out solutions that would give both sides some of what they wanted and some things they didn’t want, but could at least tolerate.
Republican President Reagan compromised with Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill to pass legislation that made the nation more secure while ending the worst recession since World War II. Democratic President Bill Clinton worked with Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich to reform welfare and pass other legislation to help create the economic boom during Clinton’s second term.
Even when one party has controlled Congress and the White House, no major, game-changing legislation had been passed since World War II without bipartisan support. Until President Obama took office.
Obama has provided poor leadership and pursued few compromises, and as a result few big problems have been solved on his watch. Rather than seeking compromise, he has relied on executive orders to implement one-sided solutions. This just widens the divide.
Gridlock is frustrating, and rule by decree is outrageous. Congressional approval ratings are dismal, and the president’s performance performance ratings are weak. Perhaps the voters will vent their frustration in the voting booth. If so, they may vote for someone known for his ability to cut deals.
That frustration is one reason the ultimate deal-maker is doing so well in the polls. Donald Trump often reminds us about his business success, and how he achieved that success by making deals. He has even written books about it, including his well-known “The Art of the Deal.”
It is difficult to predict what a Trump presidency would look like. If he won the presidency and Republicans retained control of both houses of Congress, he might have an easier time of getting his policies approved. Republicans are unlikely to win a super majority in the Senate, though, which means he will have to compromise to close the deal.
Even within his own party there are differences of opinion that could cause gridlock. But Trump knows how to negotiate, find the compromise position and close the deal. Many Republicans who support Trump for his deal-making abilities are unsure how far he will press his ideas and just how much he is willing to compromise.
As an experienced deal-maker, Trump knows that when entering a negotiation, it is a good idea to ask for more than you expect to get so that after compromising, you end up pretty close to where you wanted to be. This may explain why some of his positions seem so extreme. Maybe he doesn’t expect to get everything he asks for, but after the compromise, he will get what he really wants.
Americans are clearly frustrated with a government that is failing us. We feel less safe, have less economic opportunity, see many problems that are not being solved and generally feel less free. This frustration could lead voters to seek a president who knows how to lead and knows how to compromise, even if there are some shortcomings.
May it is time for a deal-making president.