In other words, this may be overly naive, but I do wish that people were more forthright about their non-doctrinaire views. Acknowledging as much would help us abandon the conceit that policy divides are intractable, and get past the self-defeating notion that collaborating with the other party on issues where the overlap clearly exists constitutes some kind of betrayal of the home team or freebie for the opponent.
So I enjoyed this exchange, at the New York Times, between columnists David Brooks and Gail Collins, in which, riffing off the Occupy Wall Street protests, they volunteer some concessions to the other side in the interest of fostering a more productive discourse. Collins gives the terms of the exercise:
...Let’s set a good example for those irresponsible people who actually do have power and are doing nothing but dithering and passing legislation to free the cement plants from the harsh boot heel of the Environmental Protection Agency. I’ll give something up that the left wants to protect, and you give up something on behalf of the right. Just as an exercise, to show it can be done.
When Brooks and Collins say they're giving something up, they mean they're giving up political points, rather than offering a substantive sacrifice. In some cases, the concession is offered because they think the other side is actually correct. Brooks calls for more aid to the states: "In this time of economic slowdown, it probably makes sense for the feds to borrow some money and give it to the states to avoid layoffs." On other examples, the concession is given with the caveat that it doesn't mean much. In giving up on tort reform, Collins adds that she thinks it's a red herring: "I don’t believe this will do anything much to bring down health care costs."
I think there's a third category of concessions: issues where a partisan might think the other party is wrong, but nonetheless conclude that the other party cares so much about the issue that it's not worth fighting over indefinitely. This might be controversial, but I would put voter identification in that group. Republicans are silly to say that people are voting fraudulently, and Democrats are correct that voter ID laws have an adverse effect on turnout, which is undesirable. However, people already have to show who they are when they vote, and no one is arguing that that requirement is overly burdensome. The objection from Democrats is that a lot of people don't have a government-issued photo ID--as many as 12% of eligible voters, according to the Brennan Center. To me, that seems like the bigger problem. Having a state-issued photo ID card is useful in a lot of contexts, like opening a bank account, for example, so I would think that Democrats would want people to have one, even if they don't need it to vote. In fact, if states required photo IDs to vote, I imagine that would spur an increase in the number of people with photo IDs, as Democrats would presumably launch a campaign to that end. Even if a concession represents a genuine sacrifice, there may be some positive outcomes for the concessor.