Why Compromise is Necessary in Political Life

Lincoln’s great insight that “united we stand, divided we fall” is once again at odds with many of those we elect to govern us.  Standing for something doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge our political opposites feel the same.

Picking up my Sunday newspaper today I see two stories that catch my eye and found a link between the two.  One was where the Speaker of the House, John Boehner played golf with President Obama.  It was all pretty much portrayed as White House spokesperson Jay Carney conveyed it as nothing more than “an opportunity for the speaker and the president, as well as the vice president and Ohio governor (John Kasich), to have a conversation, to socialize in a way that so rarely happens in Washington.” 

The other story was a speech by Texas Governor Rick Perry at the Republican Leadership Conference held in New Orleans yesterday.  In his speech were indications, according to reporters there, that Perry was considering a run at the White House.  The comment by Perry that caught my eye was his appeal to the extreme right for them to dig in their heals to protect their turf.

“Our party cannot be all things to all people. It can’t be. Our loudest opponents on the left are never going to like us so let’s stop trying to curry favor with them,” Perry said. “Let’s stand up and speak with pride about our morals and our values.”   SOURCE 

Despite the fact there is no one “on the left” within the Republican Party to be concerned about I found it odd that Perry would suggest that this was someone they felt they had to “curry favor with”.

One story connotes an effort by political opponents to take a break from the partisan fighting that has embroiled our country for too long.  Perhaps in such a relaxed atmosphere one might find a conciliatory tone that will strike a reasonable compromise on important issues like jobs, health care and the deficit to move our country forward.  The other story, about Rick Perry’s comments, stokes the fires of partisanship and promises much of the same political fervor that accomplishes essentially nothing as it heightens fears of things worse yet to come.

Julie Pace who covered the golf outing of the Speaker and the President for the AP ask the question as to “whether a partnership forged on the tees, fairways and greens of a military base course can yield success in the policy arena.”  I would ask the question, “why not?”  It sure couldn’t hurt and in fact may by just the antidote to get beyond the impasse that exist between the GOP-controlled House and the Oval Office.

I’ve mentioned in this blog that I’m reading Richard Beeman’s book, “Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution,” on how  some of the founding fathers came together in the summer of 1787 to forge a new national government out of a loose confederation of states that held much of the diverse political views we do today.  That diversity pitted one against the other for nearly four solid months as they went back and forth on how best to unite the states as one yet retain some individual flavor as states.  By den of compromise they were able to settle their differences but it didn’t all happen in the State House in Philadelphia.  Between the daily meetings were convivial social gatherings at prominent citizens’ homes where these men came together and ate, drank (sometimes to excess for some) and conversed casually amongst themselves.

These social events served as a format to feel out each other’s weaknesses and strengths to determine how willing or unwilling each was determined to go on the issues.  This knowledge allowed them to either drive home their support for positions they adamantly favored or would allow them room to accommodate others on issues they were not as supportive of as those who were.  It served as a means of sizing up an individual and perhaps hearing from the heart of their fellow delegates rather than from their public personas during the formal settings of the convention.

The fact that the golf outing between Obama and John Boehner occurs “so rarely … in Washington” seems to point out the failure of our leaders to find those occasions to set aside their distrust and differences with each other and come together in common events that unmask a side of them seldom seen in their political deliberations in public.

I suspect that Governor Perry could be persuaded to bend from an intractable position that caters too often to his base if he too were to sit down and break bread with his political adversaries a bit more often than he does.   It really is the job of our political leaders in this republican form of government to display to those who put them where they are that though we “cannot be all things to all people”, we should not be so willing to think that attempts at compromise are something to avoid.

Winning by a plurality in this country is not a sign to ignore at all turns those who did not vote for you.  It should also not be taken as a sign that those who did vote for you are in agreement on everything you declare as your morals and values.  Such tenuous expressions are often like the layers of an onion that reveal something more complex with various groups as you go to the core of such matters.

If the great men with human natures that came together  in 1787 were willing to concede their heart’s desire to “form a more perfect union”, then those who are always so ready to defend everything the founding fathers did and said should pay more than lip service to this notion.  The fact that they accomplished what they did in a mere 4 months is indeed a miracle once people really understand how far apart many of them were before they first met that summer.  To see that what they have accomplished has stood for nearly 250 years is a testimony to the willingness of not only our elected officials but many of the electorate over time who have come together and mollified their hard beliefs enough to allow progress to occur.

Why some feel the need to abate this progress and deride compromise as an evil is not only incoherent to many today but would be found highly distasteful to those who were able to accomplish a form a government that few had ever imagined was possible.  The guiding principle as I see it, for those who seek office and those determined to put the best possible person in place to represent them is to find that person who not only shares your values and morals but is aware that no two people are the same and is willing to work with all reasonable sides.

In the end it’s not about left and right, rich and poor, christian and non-christian or even states vs. the federal government.  It is about “we the people”,  the concept that men like Madison, Franklin, Hamilton and James Wilson concluded, albeit reluctantly, were responsible to sustain a form of government where ALL views had merit and would be measured in how willing they would be to ensure it was passed to each succeeding generation.  This can only be accomplished if we come out of our trenches and find common ground that serves the general welfare rather than the special interests.

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7 responses to “Why Compromise is Necessary in Political Life

  1. The extreme of anything offers no chance at compromise. It would be best for all of us to find some middle ground on some topics at least. Digging in heels just for the hell of it, is stupid and dangerous.

    • I agree that compromise is needed …but (there is always a but) not at the expense of progress…..look at today’s problems….many of them came from compromise at the expense of principles…

      • Yes lobo, I would agree that much of what get’s compromised negatively impacts full blown progress but what we fail to see is that other’s don’t see progress in the same terms as we do. Right or wrong there will be opposing views of plain, honest people who see things differently and to condemn their views only makes negotiating more difficult in a government like ours. If one side rules completely then we don’t have true form of representative government but we have the means to change the perceptions that win over majorities in time.

        Time is not always on our side but sometimes those things we think are urgent can be worked out over time rather than demanding immediate action.

        You and I honestly feel we need to make more rapid transition to cleaner renewable energies while others are locked into either finding more oil or slowly converting to clean energy as we use up what fossil fuels remain.

        You and I would argue that the continued use of any fossil fuel will only add to our global warming issues from CO2 buildup in the atmosphere but that danger is far removed from the eyes of those who fear cleaner renewable energies means more out of pocket expense to them now than the threat of civilization down the road.

        In our democratic-republic form of government we have to rely on the system of winning over people with rationale thought. It’s much slower than being ruled by an iron-fisted dictator who may move important issues along much quicker but who also may be wrongly influenced to support narrower self-interests while persecuted those who would speak out against such a regime.

        It’s taxing to address issues in this way and our failure to effectively communicate to everyone on what is and isn’t critical is hampered by those who would block any and all actions to pursue their own self-interests, i.e. big, oil, big pharma, big health insurance, along with the common man being more interested at times on his or her own material well-being than what needs to be addressed now so they and their children are not confronted by it down the road.

  2. If the great men with human natures that came together in 1787 were willing to concede their heart’s desire to “form a more perfect union”, then those who are always so ready to defend everything the founding fathers did and said should pay more than lip service to this notion. The fact that they accomplished what they did in a mere 4 months is indeed a miracle once people really understand how far apart many of them were before they first met that summer.

    Thank you!! We’re never going to get anywhere unless both sides are willing to give a bit. It sucks, but it’s life. I give, you give is how to get things done.

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