Friday, June 22, 2012

No Compromise

Throughout our nation’s history, there have been rancorous divides between political parties, with one party using filibusters, parliamentary tactics, media pronouncements, and even impeachment as tools in its attempts to thwart the efforts of another.  But when it comes down to it, common sense usually prevails, and aside from the Civil War, politicians have been willing to reach some form of consensus for the good of the country.  After all, despite their political pandering, most people in public office want to do what is right…at least that’s what I have always believed.

Now, I’m not so sure, because there are movements afoot to quash any candidate or office-holder who is willing to compromise with his or her political opponents.  Recently, members of the Tea Party succeeded in convincing a fickle electorate to defeat Senator Richard Lugar, primarily because of his propensity to compromise.  They almost defeated Orrin Hatch for the same reason.  As a backlash, there is a movement brewing in Democratic circles to tell President Obama to adopt a policy of “no compromise with the Tea Party.”

If the old maxim is true that “an eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth would lead to a world of the blind and toothless,” then it only seems reasonable that continued pronouncements of “no compromise” will eventually lead to no communication at all.  When the famous Senator Henry Clay was referred to as the “great compromiser” in the early 1800s, the term “great” was not being used sarcastically.  In fact, many believe that without Clay, the nation would have fallen apart way before the Civil War, and may not have been able to recover.  It’s not coincidental that he died eight years before that war began.

As a more recent example, it seems clear that were it not for the efforts of Senators like Edward Kennedy and Orrin Hatch working their respective sides of the aisle, many of the successes of the past 50 years might not have occurred.  Now those senators, and others like them, are either dead, defeated, or aging, and those coming behind them seem to offer a different take on the nature of consensus.

I am currently torn as to whether or not to vote for Scott Brown, if for no other reason than he seems willing to compromise.  But if his election will provide more power to other Republicans more strident in their beliefs, he may have to be a casualty.  I’m waiting for the Massachusetts Senate debates to learn if Elizabeth Warren will be open to hearing all sides of an issue before making a decision.  While I agree with her on many issues, I will not vote for her if I believe her election will lead to greater divisiveness.

So what I am proposing is that reasonable people make this their litmus test: if a candidate is willing to compromise, even slightly, for the good of the country, and he or she demonstrates that willingness in action, that candidate should be worthy of consideration at the ballot box.  If not, we may be headed down a path from which there is little redemption.