No consensus sought regarding what consensus means

ABC 7 News quotes Topinka commenting on Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman’s primary loss:

“As you drum out the moderates of the Democratic party, and Republicans have a tendency to do it to their moderates as well, you lose the consensus builders. You have to have to bring all sides together.”

This statement, like a lot of the things Topinka says, deserves some comment. For now, let’s put aside the obvious irony of Topinka’s own regular efforts to drum people out.


First, Republicans both nationally and in Illinois have been governing much like Democrats for years. Maybe it’s true that the country is “polarized,” but our legislative leaders are certainly not. Federal spending is wildly out of control. If someone were to awake from a 6-year coma and were told government had grown by 58% since the year 2000 they would no doubt assume Democrats were in charge.


In Illinois – need we repeat it again? Edgar. Ryan. Pate. Record revenues and record expenditures. And all before we ever saw a governor named Rod. Not a solution based on conservative principles has been sighted in Illinois since the mid-1990s welfare reform which preceded the national reforms.


Second, it’s important to understand the role consensus plays. Sure – compromise and consensus building is what democracy is all about. But what most politicians don’t want to have to come to grips with is that compromise and consensus are what take place after you’ve made your case, tried to move public opinion, and attempted to advance the best policy basedon the right principles.


For Republican moderates, the goal is not to split the difference that remains after the debate, but to see what you can get away with without conservatives noticing or getting too angry.


These politicians also like polling for the wrong reason. Rather than measuring the success or failure of their work to move public opinion, polls are commissioned to see what’s possible without having to bother with the work of debate.


The reason we continue to fail to see needed policy reforms is because our side doesn’t start negotiations from the right place. If government growth needs to be curbed, you can’t expect a good compromise to result between those who want more spending and those who want a lot more spending.


One more thing about reaching consensus: if you only work with tax eaters and leave the taxpayers out of the discussion, guess what the consensus will produce?


The reason “moderates” make lousy consensus builders is because they don’t understand when it’s time or what the building process really means.





A friend sent in these two quotes on the topic of “consensus”:


A quote from Margaret Thatcher:

“Consensus . . . the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner, ‘I stand for consensus.’?”

Ronald Reagan’s Way . . .

“A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs, which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell numbers  . . . And if there are those that cannot subscribe to these principles, then let them go their way.”