Progressives, Conservatives Must Find Common Ground

e rhetoric between progressives and conservatives here in America has been vitriolic at times. Name-calling and demeaning insults are common when the two views come within close proximity. Surely, it seems the two views must have nothing at all in common and compromise on America’s most pressing issues is all but impossible for the two sides to reach. However, it is essential that the elected representatives of a functioning democracy set aside their differences, find common ground, and turn that common ground into meaningful legislation that works towards solving the problems facing the future of our nation. Both sides; in Washington and on Main St. America, seem to have forgotten that compromise is an essential part of any democracy.

Can this be possible in today’s polarized political landscape? Well, I believe the two opposing sides might actually have several shared interests when it comes to the future of our American democracy.

Tax Reform: While the two sides will likely never agree to the specifics of tax reform, I feel both sides would put tax reform high on their respective agendas. One thing both sides might find in common is a simplification of the tax code. We can all agree that the system of taxation in America is unnecessarily complex. Individuals without itemized deductions should not have to hire experts, or tax professionals to file their income tax reforms. Likewise, corporations should not have to hire a staff of hundreds of accountants and lawyers just to file their taxes each spring. New information technology could be used to simplify the process for big companies. I think both conservatives and progressives would also agree, changes could be made to the tax code that would close loopholes used primarily by large corporations to dodge taxes they owe. In addition, common ground might also be found in incentives that discourage overseas investment and encourage domestic investment. Again, the details need to be hashed out through the legislative process, but the important thing is to recognize that the opposing sides do actually have things in common.

Debt/Spending Reduction: This may be hard for tea partiers to swallow, but many progressives are concerned about the size of our nation’s debt. Progressives aren’t thrilled about racking up national debt, but feel that debt reduction should not impede upon the growth of the private sector. Like it or not, many private businesses rely on government contracts and other forms of government assistance for their livelihood. Any major attempt to reduce our debt at this time might send the nation’s economy back into recession and lead to higher rates of unemployment. That said, progressives and conservatives could both agree to cut wasteful or redundant spending in meaningful ways. We need to find ways to gradually reduce spending and debt without sinking the economy or hurting the Americans that need the most help right now. The fastest way to pay off our debt is with taxes collected from a healthy and fully recovered economy. Another shocker to conservatives, the pace of government spending has slowed under President Obama, but it has not been enough to make any true progress towards debt reduction. Again, the details need to be worked out by our elected officials, but this is another area where both sides have a place where compromise can begin.

Election Reform and Lobbying: Both sides can agree that the intrusion of special business interests in Washington has been detrimental to the way our democracy functions. Conservatives and progressives alike have a common disdain for the way these business interests have, at times, seem to have trumped the will and votes of the everyday American citizen. Our votes just don’t stack up in comparison to millions of dollars in campaign contributions. Perhaps common ground could be found in election and lobbying reform that turns some of the political clout away from big business and back to the individual voter.

Maybe I’m just dreaming, but it seems that we could accomplish more standing together rather than tearing each other apart. No matter how great our differences in ideology, reaching solutions to our nation’s problems are far more important to the future of our nation, for our children, and for our grandchildren. I posit that this is yet another thing progressives and conservatives alike can whole heartedly agree on.

James Bliss is a Jamestown resident who studied literature and philosophy at Florida State University