What’s So Wrong With Compromise?

April 12, 2011

One of the most disturbing aspects of the ongoing budget and debt battles in Congress and throughout the country is the refusal of some legislators and the Tea Partiers to accept the importance of bargaining and compromise as critical to the survival of our nation.

The United States and its governing system was founded on the working principles of trying to bring various groups, regions and allegiances together by finding commmon ground and then using the skills of bargaining and compromise as a way of resolving disputes.

What we have now in Washsington is a rejection of that tradition as political leaders state openly that compromise is a sign of weakness and a complete victory over one’s adversaries is the only true policy path.

This thinking creates an ugly atmosphere as legislators refuse to find a consensus and show little respect for bipartisan cooperation. What occurs instead are shouting matches on the floor of Congress, a reluctance to even talk to those from the other side of the aisle, and a commitment to an ideological position no matter whether that position is proven wrong or may lead to a dead end.

It is interesting in a troublesome way how little the Tea Party and its legislative representatives know about the Constitution, even though they claim that they are the major protectors of this document.

The Constitution above all else was based on pragmatism and realism. The Founding Fathers knew that in order to make a nation out of 13 colonies there had to be give and take and the understanding that taking a hard and fast position would lead nowhere but to gridlock and inaction.

That is why the Constitution takes a balanced view on the relationship between the federal government and the states; that is why the Constitution writers created the concept of checks and balances among the three branches of government; and that is why the Constitution developed a complex and undemocratic electoral system that satisfied the propertied elites by keeping slaves, women, native Americans and even men who had no land out of the voting process.

Compromise was at the heart of the Constitution and those in Congress who see compromise as a dirty word ought to read up on how this nation was founded and how it prospered as a result of a simple commitment to compromise.