Democrats Are Giving Up on Compromise

For quite a long time there’s been a large and durable partisan gap on the issue of compromise. Generally speaking, Republicans don’t like it: they want politicians to stick to their conservative principles, come hell or high water. If that means shutting down the government or breaching the debt ceiling, so be it.

Democrats are nowhere near as implacable. For whatever reason, they take a more pragmatic view of politics, preferring their politicians to take half a loaf if that’s all they can get.

But that’s all changed. I didn’t see this when it came out a few months ago, but apparently Democrats have finally had quite enough. A Pew poll taken in March shows that Democrats are no longer any more willing to compromise than Republicans:

There are several obvious questions this raises:

  • First off, this isn’t a pure Trump thing. The share of Democrats willing to compromise went up to 69 percent through mid-2017. Then it collapsed sometime over the next few months. Why?
  • Whatever happened over the past 12 months to cause this collapse, it didn’t affect Republicans one way or the other. It affected only Democrats.
  • Possibly by chance, Democrats and Republicans have converged toward each other since 2011: in both parties, about 45 percent now prefer compromise to showdown. Is this meaningful, or just a coincidence?

It obviously wasn’t Trump’s election or his inauguration that caused the Democratic shift toward intransigence. However, it’s easy to think of events later in 2017 that might have sent Democrats over the edge: Obamacare repeal, Charlottesville, the tax bill, pulling out of the Paris accord, the Russia investigation, etc. But at least to me, none of these is an obvious candidate. I feel like the answer lies somewhere else. Any ideas?


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.