Anger and the politics of compromise




Blank, Joshua M.

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In recent years, the inability of the federal government to respond to public policy crises with a timely, commensurate solution has been a seemingly regular cause for alarm. These inactions have not been due to constitutional restraints nor, should we take them at their word, the desire of the citizenry, but have most often resulted -- and in some cases emanated -- from the inability or unwillingness of elected officials to regularly engage in compromise. Public opinion polls conducted during many of these crises have routinely found a citizenry more than willing to endorse the principles of compromise, but the officials that they have elected, and those that they continue to elect, appear increasingly emboldened to engage in behaviors that hinder the reaching of a commendable solution. This discontinuity, between public expectations and the actions of many prominent, elected officials, leaves one left to ponder if, in the current age, the representational link between citizen and legislator is broken? I will argue that this link is, in fact, not broken (at least on this particular point), and that anger at politicians and the political system makes citizens, and especially the most politically engaged among them, endorse behaviors by elected officials that hinder compromise without influencing citizens' belief in the normative good of compromise itself.



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