By Jim Dickson
Compromise, com – pro – mise / kampre, miz / noun or verb. “An agreement or settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions”
It’s been said that “politics is the art of the compromise.” If that is true, it has become almost a lost art in American politics. For some reason our elected officials think that compromise has become the “third rail” of politics, and the last thing their constitutes want them to do is wimp out and compromise with the other party.
Otto von Bismarck said that “politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.” The “Iron Chancellor” sure was no wimp. For those who slept through history class, in 1871 Bismarck was the force behind uniting 39 separate German countries into one, the Germany that we know today. He was considered to be one of the greatest statesmen of his day.
I am pretty sure that none of these guys were wimps either. James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, George Washington, and all the founding fathers understood the art of compromise.
The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was one of the greatest compromises in history, without it we would not have had our Constitution or the formation of our Republic. We would have had different states going their own way, and that would have been a recipe for eventual failure. Instead we have the Constitution and a nation that has become the envy of the world.
I don’t know about you, but most of the people that I talk to don’t want a “my way or the highway” type of government. Most seem to want government to work for all of us whether we indentify as liberal or conservative. I think that most of us are a little of both.
Granted, there are small fringe groups on the right or left that are zealots who will never be satisfied unless their demands are met, Compromise is not in their vocabulary. They will always be with us, and they will never be happy, even when they get their way, they will always want more.
They are a fact of life, but we should not let them control the debate. We need to move past the zealots and do what is best for the majority, and that is going to involve compromise.
Some of our greatest presidents – Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan to name a few, achieved greatness because they found a way to work with the opposition to get their programs passed. At one time the U.S. Senate was known as the “greatest deliberative body in the world,” because of its ability to debate great issues and come up with a compromise that was best for the country.
Today, the U.S. Senate is mostly frozen in conflict, and dead in the water. The U.S. House has had some highly accomplished leaders and members of both parties who were masters of the possible. Today they barely speak to each other. Why is that? What happened to change things for the worse? Could it be they think that is what we want, so they give us what they think we want?
There is probably good reason for elected officials to think that way. If a Congressman or a Senator steps out of line or does not toe the party line, they are ostracized by their colleagues, the media and many of the voters. If someone dares to agree and vote for a good idea from the other party, he or she is pilloried by talking heads on the 24-hour-news networks that are in the tank for one or the other of the political parties. We all tune in and we shake our heads in agreement or we shout expletives at the TV if we disagree. We ask how he or she could be such a traitor to the cause of everything that is good and just.
I don’t believe that is who we are; I think that we are much better than that. We have been conditioned over the past several years to think and act this way. It’s past time that we began think for ourselves, to take back the future of our country and let the politicians know that it’s OK to listen, to debate, and to reach compromise with the other party. Let them know that is what we want, and doing so is the best way to earn our trust and support.
Let elected officials know that we believe in representative government, that they are sent to Washington or Columbia to represent what we the people want, not necessarily what is best for them politically. We want them to vote and act in our best interests and we will reward them with re-election if they do, and if they don’t, we will find someone else who will.
If we want government to work again, it is going to require that the people who care pay attention to events and issues to form their own opinions not the opinions of the 24-hour-news networks or newspapers, which have forgotten that opinion belongs on the editorial pages and not the front page headlines.
Take the time and trouble to look at both sides of issues, and then let your elected officials know your thoughts, they do care, and it will work. Above all give them permission to compromise and find mutual agreement with the other party. When you do, government will begin to work again. Write letters make phone calls; participate in democracy. Stop standing on the sidelines and complaining.
I’m pretty sure it will still work; at least it has for more than 200 years. Why give up a good thing now?
Born, raised and educated in the Southwest, Jim Dickson served in the U.S. Navy Reserve in Vietnam before a 35-year business career. Retired to St. Helena Island, Dickson and his wife are fiscally conservative, socially moderate and active in Republican politics, though they may not always agree with Republicans. Having lived around the country and traveled around the world, Dickson believes that the United States truly is the land of opportunity.