"Does every situation, no matter how seemingly trivial, evolve into a fight?"
"Do you or your spouse continually refer to hurtful events in the past?"
"Have you and your spouse lost the art of compromise? When you disagree, are you unable to forge a path together that is acceptable to both?"
"Have you and your partner both changed so much that you no longer share moral, ethical, or lifestyle values?"
"Is your partner no longer fostering your individual growth?"
The questions above are all from a FamilyEducation.com article appropriately titled "How Do You Know When Your Marriage Is Over?" "If your answers to the following questions are irrefutably 'yes,' " the post advises, "it might be time to let go."
It would be a stretch to say that the Democratic and Republican parties are in any way married, but the two entities are in charge of running our federal household, so to speak, and it is safe to say domestic tranquility has been lacking lately.
Yes, every situation in Washington, no matter how seemingly trivial, does evolve into a fight. Just look at the recent fight over a couple of billion dollars worth of pork in the recent Hurricane Sandy relief bill.
Yes, both parties do continually refer to hurtful events in the past. The Robert Bork hearings, the Justice Thomas confirmation, President Clinton's impeachment, the Bush tax hikes, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Obamacare, etc., etc. Not an hour goes by in Washington without both parties dredging up past partisan fights.
The art of compromise? Gone. Forging a path together that is acceptable to both? Hasn't happened in at least a decade. And shared "moral, ethical, or lifestyle values?" Not anymore.
According to Pew, the gap in political values between Republicans and Democrats has never been higher and has grown worse than the gaps between other groups. Since 1987, Pew has annually asked Americans 48 values-based questions (e.g. "Do you think that most poor people in the United States are people who work but can't earn enough money, or people who don't work?").
In 1987, the average gap between Republicans and Democrats on all 48 value questions was just 10 points. That was slightly lower than the 14-point gap between whites and blacks. Today, the opposite is true. The values gap between Republicans and Democrats has almost doubled to 18 points, while the difference between average white and black values has actually fallen to just 12 points. Maybe the races should teach the parties a thing or two about how to get along.
Democrats and Republicans have stopped letting each other grow, too. Consider the Healthy Indiana Medicaid expansion plan passed and established by Gov. Mitch Daniels. The plan offered low-income beneficiaries a private, high-deductible health plan paired with a health-savings account designed to pay for expenses not covered by the insurance plan.
Beneficiaries were required to make monthly payment to their HSAs, and each payment was boosted by the state depending on the beneficiary's income. Daniels hoped that by switching to an HSA model, where beneficiaries have to use their own money for most health care, people would be more careful about how they used their health care dollars, thus lowering costs.
The plan was both immensely popular (45,000 Hoosiers eventually joined) and successful (beneficiaries visited emergency rooms less). But then in 2012, the Obama administration denied Indiana a waiver to continue its Healthy Indiana Medicaid experiment. Liberals objected that the plan did not offer enough benefits (dental, vision and maternity care were not covered) and the high-deductible plans will probably run afoul of Obama's yet-to-be-finalized insurance profit price controls. Those currently enrolled in Healthy Indiana will now be forced back into a failing traditional Medicaid system.
Divorce, unfortunately, is not an option for our nation's two parties. But they can at least try to minimize their differences. If the federal government cut down on the number of things it tries to mandate and control (like health care and education), and let liberal and conservative state governments sort them out instead, there would be a lot less for the two parties to fight about in Washington.
Conn Carroll (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. Follow him on Twitter at @conncarroll.