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COLUMN: Is compromise dead?

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By Mallory Bilger

It’s no secret. The political division in Spencer County is probably at a height that residents have not seen in recent years. And, in some ways, it’s about the drastic change in political ideology that the last local election brought. Ultimately, the voters spoke. Now we are seeing the change unfold.
Change, whether good, bad or otherwise, is always met with opposition, so the current political turmoil in Spencer County — not to mention at the state level and beyond — is not a shock. It is, however, a little sad to see how divisive the battle has become.
Spencer County voters will again have an opportunity in the May primary and in November’s general election to cast votes that could mean big changes, and many local political groups are hot on the trail to disperse the messages of the candidates they support. For those of you who might not know, the 2012 election will decide the Spencer County Clerk seat, the state representatives for the 50th, 55th and 58th districts and the second and fourth U.S. congressional districts — and let us not forget the bloody battle for the President of the United States. (It is important to note that state representative Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) of the 58th district is running unopposed.)
In my official capacity, I covered a free political meet and greet that the local republican party hosted Friday evening. I have to admit, the event was better attended than I thought it would be, but many of the attendees were the candidates themselves, their families and members of their campaign staffs. Organizers said the event was not a fundraiser, but an opportunity for all community members to come and hear the positions of the republican candidates who took the opportunity to attend the event. I laud the party for attempting an event that invited “the whole community.” However, I question how effective such an event could be when a political organization hosts it. Although I did not get a head count, I also question how many democrats  attended to hear what the opposition had to say. And, let me take this opportunity to say that if the Spencer County Democrats hosted such an event, I question how many Republicans would attend.
Unfortunately, tagging any event as “republican-sponsored” or “democrat-sponsored” immediately cancels out a large number of potential attendants. After speaking with Republican Chair Steve Hesselbrock about his reaction to the event, I heard what I believed to have been a true desire to reach out across party lines in the name of improving Spencer County. I share that desire.
My question is: Is compromise dead? Granted, there are certain values and beliefs that I hold dear on which I choose not to compromise. But in the world of government, have we really reached a place in Spencer County and in the United States where compromise is just a distant memory? Is working for the greater good so lost that we literally can’t produce effective legislation because the sides have dug their heels in so deeply that no ground is to be gained?
I surely hope not. My encouragement would be to Spencer County’s democrats, republicans, independents, and all other parties, to find a venue or organization that is not politicized. Then invite the parties to come to the table to talk about each other’s respective view points. I know, I know. Some say it’s impossible — that compromise is exactly what many do not want. But if that is impossible in Spencer County, I fear what that means for America as a whole. I love this community. I grew up here and, although I no longer live here, I attend church here and care about its future.
If some common ground is not found soon between people who truly want to see the community move forward as a whole, I fear to see what the future holds.