Where did compromise go?

“Lasting change is a series of compromises.  And compromise is all right, as long as your values don’t change.”  (Jane Goodall) as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I suppose you could restate the second half of this quote a bit as “And compromise is all right, as long as you don’t compromise your values.”  Unfortunately in what passes for our political process lately the politicians both locally and at the national level have lost the ability to compromise and have become rigid in the mistaken belief that the only way to prevent compromising their values is to just say “no” to everything.

I observed the supporters of one local candidate marching in our recent Independence Day Parade, with signs and handouts that basically said no to just about everything – no to providing access to health thumbs downcare, no to any form of birth control, no to any taxes, no to most laws no, No NO. The only thing they seemed to be for was the right to have guns. Their message boiled down to “give us our guns, get out of our way and we’ll take care of ourselves.” There seemed to be little room for any compromise on anything in their message. It seemed to me to point to a desire for armed anarchy.

I am old enough to recall a time when politicians were able to find a way to govern by finding a way to compromise on big, important issues. Neither side was forced to change their values; so, as a result the laws that they passed often reflected the compromises that were required. There were always protests from the extreme fringe groups of both parties; but, logic and a sense of duty to get things done on behalf of the people prevailed. These days the fringe groups seem to rule the parties arguingand quite often nothing gets done. That appears to be the strategy of many – to them doing nothing or preventing everything is preferable to any compromise.

I suppose it’s our own fault as a constituency that we have allowed the political process to be taken over by minority extremist groups. The ambivalence of the great majority of citizens has allowed the only people who have passion (however misplaced it may be) for their views to gain control. The result at primary or election time is often a choice between the lesser of two or more evils, with most candidates trying to “out extreme” each other in their positions on issues. A by-product is often nasty, negative campaigning even within the two parties.

I’ve espoused this before, but it’s time to say it again – we need a viable third party alternative. We need a party in the center, a party that is not dedicated to the extremes of either conservatism or liberalism – a party willing to compromise to get things done. Maybe they could call it the Common Sense Party (CSP), since that is a political space that is currently not being occupied by the two existing parties. There seems to be a role for government somewhere between the “let me do it all for you” and the “let’s do nothing” extreme poles. Somewhere between “rules for everything” and “no rules at all” is a happy medium ground where the needs of the individual and the needs of the society are both served well.

Will the CSP ever come to be? Maybe not, but perhaps the voting public will tire of having to choosedumb and dumber between Dumb and Dumber and having to put up with the misinformation and attack ads that are used to try to influence our votes. There is hope on the horizon in the form of the changing demographics of the U.S. population. As the population grows and becomes more and more diverse the minorities at both ends of the political spectrum will become smaller and smaller. Maybe, just maybe, there will be enough honest people with common sense who will be willing to crawl through the slime of our political process to get elected and bring some sense of compromise back into the process of governing. One can only hope.

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