By editorial board • 

How can we return to an age of compromise?

“Come now, and let us reason together.” — Isaiah 1:18

Reasoning together sounds like a positive idea.

Or we could just retreat to the furthest ends of any given issue and lob rhetorical Molotov cocktails at one another. Barring that, we could simply take our marbles and go home.

Oregon Republicans walked out of the Capitol this week because they had virtually no voice in development of a massive education funding bill. Meanwhile, Oregon teachers walked out to drive home the point they really want education more generously funded.

State Sen. Brian Boquist, who represents McMinnville in Senate District 12, entered the fray by accusing leaders of Oregon Business & Industry of being leftists pursuing a socialist agenda. He went so far as to suggest Mike Stober, OBI’s director of government affairs, might look appropriate in the black mask of a thuggish Antifa protester.

OBI chief executive officer Sandra McDonough made some questionable statements about using business taxes to fund schools, and Boquist was right to call her on them. However, in his May 3 e-mail, copied to almost everyone but the Pope, he went nuclear. It was as vicious and hyperbolic as a presidential tweet.

Maybe it’s just the age in which we live.

There are two schools of thought. One is that politics can no longer be played in the center with appeals for compromise, reason and cooperation. The other is that politics is tribal warfare.

You come out with swords drawn, and the last ideology standing wins, no compromise offered, no quarter given.

Warriors in these battles would argue they are the ultimate pragmatists. To gain political ground these days, you want bruisers from the football team, not nerds from the chess club.

They may well be right, sad to say.

Dramatic walkouts and vitriolic rhetoric may be effective tactics, or at least the only available strategy for groups who feel shut out of the political discussion.

Oregon Republicans have definitely been marginalized by the Democrats and their sucks-being-you supermajority. Teachers feel similarly ignored on education funding they consider clearly inadequate.

As for Boquist, well, vitriolic rhetoric was his legislative métier before he staked out a more moderate position. Last week’s e-mail may represent a brief return to Boquist Classic.

This is not our first call for a return to moderation and civility. Expect to see it as a recurring theme as politics increasingly resemble 1970s roller derby.

We like civility and moderation. We might begin returning to them by remembering what comedian Jon Stewart said in 2014, in the face of public cynicism toward our basic institutions.

“The legislators and journalists and institutions that we jab and ridicule are not in any way the enemy,” Stewart said. “For however frustrating or outraged the back and forth can become, it’s still back and forth, a conversation among those on let’s call it Team Civilization.”

Republicans should remember his message. More importantly, as the ruling party, so should the Democrats.

Then we can focus on another passage from Isaiah: “Cease to do evil. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Correct oppression.”


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