The Roanoke Times
31 July 2017
The rock singer Sheryl Crow has what might be the most unusual protest song ever.
Most protest songs actually protest, often in a strident sort of way. By contrast, her song “Halfway There” is a peppy, upbeat, made-for-summer kind of song that is really a plea for moderation and compromise in a polarized nation.
Crow doesn’t try to disguise her liberalism: “You pull up in your Hummer and you park next to my Volt,” she sings: “I might walk along the left side, and you walk along the right.”
Instead of condemning the conservative Hummer driver, or even trying to persuade him that he’s wrong, Crow makes a very different kind of pitch:
“Could you meet me down the river, hash it out over a beer? / Could you smoke from the same peace pipe ‘til our anger disappears?
You want respect, you just want love / I want that too, for you, and for me, and everyone
But you know what’s best and I know what’s best / Let’s just agree to disagree and give this thing a rest.”
Then the song kicks in to the chorus:
“Baby, if you dare; if you really care / Baby, if you dare; won’t you meet me halfway there?”
Kid Rock is flirting with a bid for the U.S. Senate from Michigan. Perhaps Crow is the one we really ought to be encouraging to run, or at least adding to everyone’s personal playlist. There’s study upon study showing how Americans are becoming more and more estranged from those with political views different from their own, as we self-segregate ourselves into our own little echo chambers, be it in our virtual life or our real life. A Washington Post survey last fall found that most Trump supporters in Virginia simply didn’t know any supporters of Hillary Clinton — and most Clinton supporters didn’t know any Trump backers.
Perhaps it’s not surprising then that we’re suspicious of such strangers: A recent CBS Poll found that 21 percent of Republicans said that those they disagreed with constituted “a threat to [their] way of life.” Don’t just blame Republicans. The same poll found that 25 percent of Democrats felt the same way.
Can we at least agree that it’s not a good thing if nearly a quarter of each party thinks the other side is a “threat” to their way of life?
Crow’s song — powerful though it is — is wrong on one key point. “We’re both tryin’ to reach the same place,” she sings. Umm, not necessarily. We have two different parties for a reason; Democrats and Republicans have two very different views on the role of government in society. Democrats would generally like to see more government activism on most issues; Republicans would like to see less. That’s not “the same place.”
Still, that doesn’t mean we should see the other side as a “threat of our way of life.” Jihadists who want to violently impose some medieval caliphate? They’re a threat to our way of life. Democrats and Republicans? Those are just people who have policy disagreements.
We’ve essentially had the same political argument over the role of government since the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. What’s different now is that we’re losing the notion that compromise can be a virtue. Instead, both parties have become so beholden to their extremes that compromise has become a dirty word — something to be wielded as a threat and not offered as an incentive.
A few weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned his party that if Republicans couldn’t pass a bill repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, then he might have to cut a deal with Democrats to shore up some of the inadequacies with the current law.
A bipartisan solution? Why wasn’t that the first idea, and not the last resort? Bipartisanship was basically used as a threat to get some reluctant Republicans in line.
“Won’t you meet me halfway there?,” Crow sings.
Neither party has much interest in that, not when their party activists shout down any hint of compromise — on anything — as a sell-out. That’s where the problem really begins.
The most conservative Republicans complain that certain Republicans are “RINOS” — “Republicans in name only,” as if one clique gets to determine what party orthodoxy should be. The most liberal Democrats —so-called “progressives” — treat their less liberal members with the same disdain. Liberal Democrats have a special distaste for West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin because they don’t think he’s a “real” Democrat. Actually, we’d see a lot more progress in Washington if there were more Democrats like Manchin, and more Republicans like Susan Collins, the moderate from Maine. Or John McCain.
Meanwhile, we need fewer politicians like Corey Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors who recently announced he’ll seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate next year. The pugnacious Stewart described his bid this way: “I am going to run the most vicious, ruthless campaign to dethrone Tim Kaine.” Really? Is that what we really need? More viciousness and ruthlessness in politics?
Perhaps Stewart is simply channeling the times we live in; he certainly thinks so. We’d contend otherwise: That people are fed up with that kind of meanness. Kaine may be right or wrong on the issues; that’s a different matter. But pledging to run a “vicious, ruthless” campaign against him — that helps improve our civic discourse how, exactly?
That kind of campaign also makes it difficult for anyone to “meet me halfway there.” Which half are we supposed to accept? The viciousness or the ruthlessness?
The other problem with that kind of “vicious, ruthless” campaigning is that it drives good people away from politics when what need is more. More specifically, what we need are more candidates willing to practice not just a “kinder, gentler” approach to politics, but a willingness to compromise.
That’s a hard sell to party activists on both sides; they are increasingly “all or nothing” purists. But if you really want to “drain the swamp” in Washington, the first place to start at the grass roots — by diluting the power of the ideologues who think someone like Stewart is just what the party needs. If Republicans really want to defeat Kaine, they should start by listening to Sheryl Crow.
SOURCE: The Roanoke Times