I have grown weary of hearing the calls for bi-partisanship. The calls for “reaching across the aisle” and “bucking your party.” And yes, I’m even tired of that sacred word that hushes the most stubborn of partisans: Compromise. Compromise in terms of leadership or lack thereof. Compromise with ulterior motives and double-speak. Compromise that hurts our country, indeed our world.
To some this is counter-intuitive and in stark contrast to the common wisdom put forth by much of the media. But the truth is, moderation & compromise have a dark and sordid past when it comes to governing nations. It gave us “The Great Society,” which ensured generations of poor on welfare and the end of the need for a father. It gave us the “New Deal” & Medicare, which are quickly bankrupting our country. It gave us the Munich Pact and the Gaza Strip. It empowered North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons and is on a steady path to do the same with Iran.
Some would say it gave us the Constitution and the Emancipation Proclamation, but that is only partially correct. In order for the founders to compromise with one another they had first to establish that they were immovable in their stance against King George. For him there would be no compromise.
In order for Lincoln to bring the States back into Union, he had to stand his ground firmly and go to war with his own countrymen rather than “negotiate” or be “bi-partisan.”
It is not compromise in and of itself that has begun to wear on me. It’s the misuse of it’s purpose. Compromise does not exist for the purpose of mindless moderation. It does not exist to create friends that would otherwise be enemies.
Compromise is a tool for coming to a common understanding, but there must be foundational common interests first. If there is not, then there is nothing to negotiate if your interests are too much in contrast with one another.
Compromise presupposes that there is something you are capable of or willing to give up, which at times needs to not be the case. It assumes that you can get what you want out of the other side without giving up so much that it destroys that which you were trying to protect.
At times, it is best not to compromise at all — to look at the opposition and determine that, not only do they not have anything to offer, but you don’t have anything you’re willing to give up.
In point of fact, you can’t have compromise if you don’t have some aspects of your position that cannot be compromised. To paraphrase Etienne Gilson, there cannot be tolerance without dogmatism. To put it another way, if I’m offered by a murderer to be killed with either a gun or a knife, I’ll choose to not be murdered.
The solidarity of the Republicans on the issue of Tax Cuts gives me hope that the era for moderate politics and meaningless compromise may finally and at long last come to an end. Let the era of leadership begin.