Morton Marcus: Fixing problems requires finding common ground

Keywords Opinion / Viewpoint

marcus-morton-viewpoint.pngDisagree without being disagreeable. Often, I fall short of that goal. I do enjoy taking a position I have not supported in the past. It’s like wearing a different set of clothes. Does that make me an intellectual transvestite?

Yet, private conversation is different from public controversy that, today, yields only stagnation. While I cannot always support compromise, I do encourage finding common ground. Consider the following issues:

Abortion. Public figures are required to be either pro-choice or pro-life. Truthfully, everyone I know favors both life and choice. However, the ardent, sincere supporters of each side demand digital, as opposed to analog, allegiance to extreme positions.

Mature consideration of issues discovers the common ground, the place adversaries agree to stand and work for important social goals. Common ground, however, is the quicksand of unrelenting opposition.

What is the common ground of abortion? It is the urgent, persistent need for maternal- and child-care. Indiana ranks very low among the states in pre- and post-natal services. Births in the Hoosier Holyland are riskier for mothers and children than in most states.

We are dis-investing in our own future by failing to provide sufficient funding for basic health and behavioral support for pregnancy and perinatal care. In the next and succeeding sessions of the General Assembly, let’s not have any legislation concerning abortion and focus instead on the common ground of giving proper support to each mother and child.

Gerrymandering. How can there be common ground in the battle for political dominance? Either you support the D’s or the R’s, the Blues or the Reds. Unconditional victory over the other is the goal of politics as we know it. Effective, partisan drawing of congressional, state and local district maps is the key to success. Empower your supporters and disenfranchise the opposition via the power of meticulous boundary definitions.

If there is no common ground, only battlegrounds, let’s find a way to make each vote, each voter, more powerful. Let’s take a fresh look at the brutal, death-dealing protocol of winner take all.

States can alter the way presidential electors are chosen. Instead of giving all 11 of Indiana’s electors to the statewide vote-getter, let’s follow the already gerrymandered districts and allocate nine of our eleven electors according to the party victors in each congressional district.

In 2016, this would have resulted in two electors for the Democratic presidential candidate and seven for the Republican candidate, with the remaining two going to the Republican Party, winner of the statewide vote. Additionally, use proportional representation at both the state and local legislative levels.

Road funding and timbering in our state forests. Both of these come to mind among the thorny issues capable of forward movement.

What does it take to make progress? Unclench the jaws and remove the fangs of the contesting opponents; play the harp and silence the trumpets.•

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Marcus is an economist and former director of the Indiana Business Research Center at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

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