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As part of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, these fellows are engaged in a full-time, nine-month, graduate-level leadership training program that prepares individuals for public-affairs leadership.

On compromise and campaign finance

Q: Winning an election often involves taking a strong ideological position to energize a partisan base. Actually governing, however, usually requires compromise. Will today's Republican leaders be able or willing to pivot successfully from campaigning to governing? Are there lessons from other fields on how to do it?

The following responses come from six of the fellows that make up the Coro Southern California 2011 class.

There is no question that in order to succeed in politics, a candidate must take a stance on issues in order to mobilize a partisan base. Furthermore, in order to govern effectively, I believe it will be necessary for Republican leaders to extend an olive branch to moderate Democrats (or at least pretend to do so) and thereby begin to work across party lines.

In 2008, Barack Obama garnered support from not only his Democratic base but also across the aisle from some Republicans. However, we do not see this tactic occur very often today in American politics. As a registered Democrat in the state of California, I was hopeful that Meg Whitman would have been less the face of the Republican Party and more of a candidate for the people of California. But that did not happen, and thus she will not receive my vote next Tuesday. The punch lines of her numerous political ads that inundate our radio waves and televisions here in California are not reflective of the leadership skills necessary to govern a state of 38 million people. However, if Meg were to be elected Governor of California--a feat which seems highly unlikely at this point--she would govern under a Democratic legislature and have no choice but to make smart compromises and govern in the best interest of Californians. Sure, she might lose the support of some of her Republican base, but then she might gain the trust of Democrats as well; and in California, Republicans need Democrats. But we'll likely never know the true outcome of that scenario, as Jerry Brown will instead likely take the reigns of governance, once again.

So what lessons can we offer Republicans--as well as Democrats--transitioning from campaigning to governing? I can't help but to think of Nelson Mandela for an example of a great leader and politician. In 2008, I read an article in Time magazine titled "Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership." The entire piece was memorable, but one lesson that resonates most in this election is lesson No. 4: "Know your enemy-and learn about his favorite sport." Mandela applied this tactic in getting to know Afrikaners and, although not a tactic necessarily favored by his own base at the time, he applied it very well. He understood their history, spoke their language and took it upon himself to understand all aspects of their beloved sport, rugby. Ultimately, he gained their trust and found commonalities he could use to bridge black and white South Africans. Governing in any area of this country is not a simple task, but in my home state of California--rich and diverse from its land to its people--I offer this: learn the sport of your enemies, speak their language and transition to a governance approach focusing on the best interests of all people. --Corinne E. Tapia

The transition from campaigning to governing seems most difficult when a campaign has been financed by special interests: the more entwined a politician is with particular causes, the more challenging real compromise will be post-election. The success of the transition from campaigning to governing also depends on the resolve and priorities of the elected official, as well as an elected official's connections. History has demonstrated that a powerful candidate does not always translate into a successful politician.

Moreover, the question of Republican governance cannot be answered without knowing how many seats the Republicans will have in the House and the Senate: if Republicans manage to take majorities in both houses, compromise will be less important (at least with the Democrats). Democrats, for their part, did not seem to feel the need to compromise very often (if at all) with Republicans when they held a super majority.

Indeed, compromise should not necessarily be the goal of an elected official, especially when such compromise would require straying from one's core values. The concept of compromise as a desirable end-result neglects the notion that differences are often acceptable and, indeed, desirable--it should not necessarily be the goal of government to bring all people together. This seems to be particularly true around hot-button social issues, when a politician's "values" are being tested, and compromising to build consensus might compromise an elected official's values.

On less value-laden issues, government might benefit from the adoption of certain business practices to try to bridge the partisan gap, for instance by adopting partnership requirements across party lines to work toward collective goals. For example, MIT and Yeshiva Medical Schools both recently sought the same breast cancer research grant from the National Science Foundation. The NSF approached the two institutions and challenged them to collaborate in their research, awarding the grant to their partnership rather than choosing to fund one entity alone. Perhaps the two major political parties could create cooperation guidelines to help build bridges across party lines and find common ground. --Thalia Roussos


Campaigning and governing may appear to be two worlds apart. Sure, once election day comes and goes, we may twitter less, take a break from the constant Facebook group updates or cease annoying voters with our get-out-the-vote phone banks, but the ideological positions that garner the support necessary to get elected don't simply fade away once the winner is announced. If anything, the campaign platform tees up the political agenda of the elected official and majority party. Some politicians will take even stronger ideological positions post-election to adjust to the same rank-and-file politics that have come to permeate governance on every level.

Conservative leaders will be no different after the midterm election. Not only will they refuse to reach across the aisle, the Palin fan club along with the Tea Party posse will continue to push the ideological spectrum even further to the Right, which will force members of the GOP to push back against any and all initiatives that President Obama and the Democrats have worked on in the last few years. There will be major attempts to repeal and dismantle "liberal" pieces of legislation before the presidential election in 2012--including, perhaps most significantly, the healthcare reform legislation.

Conservative messaging has been clear and there appears to be no intention of changing it: Stop Obama and the Liberals. No signs of pivoting are in sight if the Republicans regain control of one or both chambers of Congress. Instead, expect Conservatives to stomp their way into Washington to energize the Republican base; the only thing this country will have to show for it are the elephant tracks left behind. --Thuy Huynh


"The best way to keep loyalty in a man's heart is to keep money in his purse." Today's politicians excel in taking that old proverb seriously. But what happens when the patrons begin to splinter? A look at recent votes in the Senate shows that Democrats have long suffered from the schizophrenic pull of disparate donors with contrasting interests. Senate Republicans may soon be suffering too.

There were new sources of big conservative money in town this cycle: Karl Rove's American Crossroads and the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity, among others. Spurred on by divergent litmus test proposals, benefactors have created battles within and outside the GOP. If some of their bets come across the finish line, a new type of landscape may take shape. In the Senate, that once impenetrable (save for a couple) bloc of Republicans may be no more.

With the risk of losing 7 or 8, getting to 60 may prove impossible for progressive issues. But with splintered Republicans entering those seats, the prospect of compromise is no longer out of the question. The voting disarray frequently present within Senate Democrats could be mirrored on the other side of the aisle. These funder-driven fractures might lead to that long forgotten concept of concessions, and more functional, effective governing along with it. --Farid E Ben Amor


The underlying problem is not a politician's ability or desire to compromise once in office but one of no longer seeing governance through trade-offs as politically or practically advantageous in the current political context. The political landscape today is largely reminiscent of the 1994 midterm elections, halfway through President Clinton's first term. Newt Gingrich issued his "Contract with America" and polling data suggested the country was the most politically polarized it had ever been. Fast forward to the 2010 midterm elections. A popular come-from-behind Democratic president is part way through his first term in office, John Boehner has just issued his "Pledge to America" and polling data suggests that the country is the most politically polarized it has ever been. Sound familiar?

If we are to believe the pundits, Republicans will retake the majority in the House of Representatives on November 2nd just as they did in 1994. Holding a majority in the lower house means that Republican leaders will now be held accountable for what does or does not get passed through that house of Congress. It will again politically benefit congressional Republicans to pass laws and demonstrate how effective government can be now that they are in power. Until election day, it doesn't make practical sense for legislators from either party to give ground, because both know that things will change drastically in the wake of the election. In 1994, the change of power following the elections ushered in a more productive second half of the term for President Clinton. What the future holds for President Obama remains unclear, but a Republican majority may actually be a boon for the Administration in that Republican leaders may allow for a little thaw in the nearly immovable glacier that has characterized Republicans in both houses in the last two years.

Actually governing does require give and take, except in the rare case where a single party has an overwhelming majority in both houses and holds the White House. However, it is not always politically beneficial to actually govern. The cyclical nature of politics in this country dictates that it is sometimes best to stubbornly hold up legislation in order to wait until a time when your side has more say. In this way, politicians can be seen as investors watching the peaks and troughs of the market and expending or conserving their political capital based on this cycle.

It pains me to think that political leadership in our country boils down to market timing, but I think the analogy holds. I'm waiting for a time when a group of legislators from both sides of the aisle are willing to simultaneously break rank. Individual action in this case is noble but not enough. I truly hope that legislators are not market timers and are willing to vote against their party even if it means loosing their seat, but I've yet to see many examples of this kind of necessary bravery. --Andrew DeBlock


A successful candidate will energize voters, bring them out en masse on Election Day and then move toward the middle as necessary to actually govern. President Obama served as an excellent example of this. He spoke of an agenda that appealed to the Left. He energized the youth vote and they responded by voting in record numbers. After he was sworn into office, President Obama took a more centrist view and adopted a moderate platform, which has backfired on him on two fronts. First, his left-of-center base has begun to lose faith in him: President Obama's polling numbers are currently the lowest of his Administration. Second, Republicans began campaigning almost immediately on an anti-Obama/anti-Democratic platform, which didn't actually require them to propose any real solutions of their own. Republican incumbents have deployed this strategy with success by refusing to reach across the aisle to work with President Obama. Challengers--both Republicans and some centrist Democrats--have begun to tout their disagreement with the Obama Administration as a selling point. By strongly energizing his base, President Obama won the election, but is now left with a legislature that is reluctant to reach across the aisle and compromise.

When Senator McCain ran for the GOP Presidential nomination in 2000, he took a fairly centrist view. In contrast, then-Governor Bush appealed to the conservative Republican base. As history has since revealed, President Bush went on to win both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. However, partisan tensions ran extremely high for the majority of Bush's eight years in the White House. Many Democrats were extremely reluctant to work with President Bush, and touted their opposition to Bush-supported legislation. When President Bush left office, polling numbers showed his approval ratings in the 20-percent range. By refusing to compromise with Democrats, President Bush alienated himself and his party from the majority of Americans.

In contrast to President Bush, Senator McCain has succeeded in the Senate by working across the aisle. In 2002, he passed the bi-partisan legislation of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act. He went on to win the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. However one of the key reasons he did not win the 2008 presidential election was because he failed to energize the conservative Republican base during the 2008 election--even selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate proved too little, too late. Instead, the Republican Party has since splintered with the emergence of the Tea Party.

Republican leaders will not be able to successfully pivot from campaigning to governing. By energizing half the country, they've succeeded in isolating themselves from the other half. Democrats, for their part, will likely also prove reluctant to demonstrate a bi-partisan approach since they will begin ramping up for the 2012 elections as soon as this one ends; and we've seen that adopting a moderate, centrist approach doesn't appear to get votes anymore. --Leti Munoz

By Coro Fellows

 |  October 26, 2010; 8:41 AM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Congressional leadership , Government leadership , Political leadership , Politics , Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Dramatic changes are possible | Next: Four questions to ask of Republicans

Comments

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What really worries me is that we're hoping the Republicans will be forced to compromise after they win the House tomorrow. Conventional wisdom, as stated above, suggests that since they will control the House they'll have a shared responsibility to govern or face the wrath of a electorate who will see a greater range of culpability than they currently do.

I don't know that in this current state of polarization and the advent of truly partisan echo media if the Republicans will actually have any clear mandate for governance. Rather, I expect them to stick to their guns and step up their obstructionism in hope of unseating President Obama in 2012. In this respect we're facing dark times ahead in a world that is only getting more competitive and less tolerant of ineffective and parochial electioneering and governance. If we don't step up we will be left behind.

Posted by: SpnSprt | November 2, 2010 1:20 AM
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I think that the fundamental issue is the ability for Republicans to turn campaign rhetoric into reasonable policy. For example, despite talk of smaller government, no one is willing to roll back social security benefits. Until Republicans are able to build a stronger bridge between their campaign rhetoric and their actual policy proposals, there will continue to be a disconnect between a candidate's campaign and an elected official's governance.

Posted by: emg1011 | October 30, 2010 8:25 PM
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http://thinkprogress.org/2010/10/20/scalia-thomas-koch/

"What role Have Scalia and Thomas Played in The Koch Money Machine?"
Ian Millhiser

Posted by: huj534op | October 30, 2010 5:45 AM
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Corrine here gives us a great example of partisan politics and how they can often get in the way of seeing issues in an objective manner. Her example of Meg Whitman being the "face of the Republican Party" is not only misleading, but when compared to Brown's policies, seems trivial. Whitman is a classic California Conservative- far removed from the hard line and backwards thinking of the GOP. Jerry Brown, on the other hand, is a hard line DNC candidate stuck on the left and refusing to budge. Corrinne's partisan approach to looking at these two candidates, and her refusal to "compromise" and see the candidates objectively, is why she mistakenly calls the candidate who moved towards the center (Whitman) the partisan candidate, while the far-left candidate of big spending, union entitlement, and fiscal irresponsibility gets lauded as compromising and level-headed. This is a perfect example for this topic, since Corrine's decision not to make a compromise, and instead view issues along party lines, is exactly the problem she describes in the beginning of her post. Whitman, working under a Democratic legislature, would result in a much more compromising and moderate system of governance that the combination of Jerry Brown and a Democratic legislature. The former would yield results at a moderate pace, well thought out and parsed through thoroughly, with comprehensive representation. The latter, however, will yield hasty results not given their due diligence, and will result in decisions comparable to those made under Brown in the past- unfair, short-sighted, and economically harmful. Unions will continue to have their unreasonable and unrealistic demands met, pension costs will continue to bankrupt the state, and schools will continue to slide into decline (remember Brown's promise and subsequent failure to fix the Oakland schools). If you are truly looking for a compromising, moderate government to lift California out of the current gloom and doom, then Whitman is a far better choice than Brown. If you want the partisan and uncompromising politics that have been shown to be disastrous on both the Right and the Left, then stick with Corrinne's regressive party-line approach.

Posted by: PostPartisan1 | October 29, 2010 1:11 PM
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I agree with Corinne, Nelson Mandela is an excellent role model for leadership. I just wonder what sport Democrats need to learn and what sport Republicans need to learn to govern effectively in California.

Posted by: lsb05 | October 29, 2010 2:46 AM
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I think Leti Munoz's points are particularly well observed and pertinent. Her views simultaneously offer a broad scope and a condensed insight. Sad to say that she's right in her assessment. It is shameful that any candidate's ideology can shift so markedly from pre- to post-election. I guess this is the balance to be weighed as to whether a politician goes on to achieve anything in office.
I look forward to seeing more of Leti Munoz's considerations.

Posted by: Iestyn | October 28, 2010 10:08 PM
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I enjoyed reading the different perspectives highlighting the balance and exchange that occurs between campaigning and the actual process of governing.

Kudos to Leti Munoz and Thuy Huynh for providing some insightful opinions on this issue and taking a balanced approach to the issue.

Also, having only been about 12 years old at the time, it was interesting to learn about the issues we experienced in 1994. History does repeat itself!

Posted by: danelleg | October 28, 2010 7:38 PM
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This is a very impressive group of individuals. I sincerely enjoyed reading the comments this week.

Andrew brought up a great point about it not always being politically beneficial for one party to control the White House, Senate and House. The polls are showing that the Republicans will take over the House next week. If that turns out to be the case, I truly hope that we can begin to work together in Washington. However, I fear that the Republicans will use this time gear up for 2012. We are falling into a sad cycle of our politicians paying more attention to running for office rather than respecting what the office stands for: to represent the people.

Posted by: xuxazuzu | October 27, 2010 3:29 PM
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Sorry for reposting this... the other way was just very difficult to read...

I enjoyed all these blogs very much. Very insightful, diverse, and engaging.

I agree with Thuy Hunyh’s statement . When running an election your platforms play a large role in structuring your political agenda during your term. Leave it to Republicans to continue to push the political spectrum further right and capitalizing on the nation's anxiety, often times through scapegoats i.e. immigrants.

Compromise is definitely a thing of the past. Since the days of the Clinton Administration and the formation of the "Party of No"-- compromise has been painful...especially when trying to keep within the party line. With the looming Republican takeover projected in the House and huge lost in the Senate (but Democrats will probably maintain the Senate); divided government will definitely be the name of the game. As mentioned by another commenter, the republicans cry "compromise" in 08 and 06 but when they are in power we'll see how far compromise goes.

The New York Times notes that to all of those who believe divided government will then force the government to work together, the opposite can also be true:
"Most of the casualties will be fiscally conservative Democrats from Republican-leaning areas, leaving a smaller, more solidly liberal caucus less inclined to support cost-saving changes in future Social Security benefits, for example... Republicans' ranks will almost certainly be strengthened by a wave of conservatives, including Tea Party loyalists, who are opposed to raising any taxes and to compromising with Democrats generally -- a stand Congressional Republican leaders have adopted. And incumbents otherwise inclined to make deals are now wary, Republicans say privately, mindful of colleagues who lost primary challenges from Tea Party candidates."

After the stampede of large elephant tracks come by-- you'll see first the attempt at the destruction of any piece of "liberal" legislation, and then an investigation of the President and his administration last two years to bash any chances of Obama and any further “liberal” victories.

The Republican Party has made it no guessing game, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." -- Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in an interview with the National Journal, describing his goal in retaking the Senate.

Farid’s blog on the disarray in voting within the Democratic Party and soon to be GOP is spot on. I sincerely hope Farid is right about there being a funder-driven disarray (with splinters on different issues) that will make concession happen. But if I know anything about inexperienced leaders is that they usually come in with an experienced advisory team that will advise them to continue the old ways in which they are used to.

Posted by: Dayrider625 | October 27, 2010 4:52 AM
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I enjoyed all these blogs very much. Very insightful, diverse, and engaging.
I agree with Thuy Hunyh’s statement . When running an election your platforms play a large role in structuring your political agenda during your term. Leave it to Republicans to continue to push the political spectrum further right and capitalizing on the nation's anxiety, often times through scapegoats i.e. immigrants.
Compromise is definitely a thing of the past. Since the days of the Clinton Administration and the formation of the "Party of No"-- compromise has been painful...especially when trying to keep within the party line. With the looming Republican takeover projected in the House and huge lost in the Senate (but Democrats will probably maintain the Senate); divided government will definitely be the name of the game. As mentioned by another commenter, the republicans cry "compromise" in 08 and 06 but when they are in power we'll see how far compromise goes.
The New York Times notes that to all of those who believe divided government will then force the government to work together, the opposite can also be true:
"Most of the casualties will be fiscally conservative Democrats from Republican-leaning areas, leaving a smaller, more solidly liberal caucus less inclined to support cost-saving changes in future Social Security benefits, for example... Republicans' ranks will almost certainly be strengthened by a wave of conservatives, including Tea Party loyalists, who are opposed to raising any taxes and to compromising with Democrats generally -- a stand Congressional Republican leaders have adopted. And incumbents otherwise inclined to make deals are now wary, Republicans say privately, mindful of colleagues who lost primary challenges from Tea Party candidates."
After the stampede of large elephant tracks come by-- you'll see first the attempt at the destruction of any piece of "liberal" legislation, and then an investigation of the President and his administration last two years to bash any chances of Obama and any further “liberal” victories.
The Republican Party has made it no guessing game, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." -- Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in an interview with the National Journal, describing his goal in retaking the Senate.
Farid’s blog on the disarray in voting within the Democratic Party and soon to be GOP is spot on. I sincerely hope Farid is right about there being a funder-driven disarray (with splinters on different issues) that will make concession happen. But if I know anything about inexperienced leaders is that they usually come in with an experienced advisory team that will advise them to continue the old ways in which they are used to.

Posted by: Dayrider625 | October 27, 2010 4:42 AM
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The responses are well informed and really demonstrate depth of awareness of current political conditions.

However, an area that I think plays a large role, regardless of party platform, is the economy.

If a parallel is to be drawn in another field- it is best to look at business and examine the scenario of a struggling company needing a turnaround. A new management may be brought in to try to recover the company, and remove or reassign any old staff to try to push through their agenda of change. If it doesn’t work, they will have to answer to the shareholders, who control their fate. While a Republican takeover can be seen shareholders (voters) flexing their will, the Republicans do not have the luxury of being able to remove dissenting elements to push their agenda through.

Assuming the Republicans are able to push all their ideal legislation through, if a sputtering economy remains, it will not be in the Republicans favor. They might not be able to push all of what they would like through regardless, especially if Democrats fight back with the same fervor that Republicans have recently demonstrated.

If the Republicans believe that their policies will be best for economic recovery, they will have to somehow be able to push them through without being blunted by the Democrats, and generate results as quickly as possible. I find this unlikely to happen, especially since I don't expect the Democrats or President Obama being a rubber stamp for them, especially since they will have to answer to their supporters.

Posted by: vietbui | October 26, 2010 6:54 PM
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All of these opinions above are not without merit, but some arguments assume that political parties can choose the direction they want to take. As far as partisanship goes, I don't think that political parties have that much autonomy. Bi-partisanship do not usually excite the base, and if you don't get elected, you have little real affect on policies. No winning, no governing, at least in the electoral politics sense.

Republicans have for the past few decades, been successful at what they do, and move America center line to the right (if we want to use the simple left-right dichotomy). With this election, the Republican party may seem fractured, but they are best at what they do, given their gains the past few decades (and the strange coalition between evangelicals rights and economic libertarians).

Like Thuy, I think Republicans (the ones running and voting) plan on running the show when/if they get elected. No doubt about it. They'll cry compromise in 2006, 2008, and then show Democrats how to get things done for their base.

Posted by: dieuhhuynh | October 26, 2010 1:56 PM
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I've enjoyed reading these responses very much, as the question and answers resonate well with both the current political landscape and in my opinion, one of the greatest hurdles for political candidates. I think Corinne's response was powerful in sharing lessons learned from a tremendously successful leader such as Mandela. Since successful governing requires breaking down party lines, Republicans need to adopt a similar approach to campaigning.

While I think Democrats have made great strides toward this trend of crossing party lines within their campaign strategy, Republicans have seemed to move further away.

Of course this transition isn't easy for many reasons, but the points shared in these responses deserve strong consideration.

Posted by: kirstensands | October 26, 2010 1:26 PM
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