In today’s world of politics, compromise is still an important tool. But too few people seem to believe that to be the case.
The United States is a nation built on the careful and valuable and delicate art of compromise. Unfortunately, in today’s bitter politics, we too easily forget that. Today, too many see it as a sign of weakness, a show of failure.
Long before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis officially announced his candidacy for president, groups were sending me mail about him. An organization that identified itself as not being associated with any candidate or candidate’s committee sent me a full-size eight-page magazine on him.
It made heavy use of DeSantis’s catchphrase: “Never back down.” It appears three times on the front cover. Counting the disclaimer and the web URL, it appears on the back cover five times. It appears in the interior of the magazine no fewer than six times.
This post isn’t out to criticize DeSantis specifically. He’s not the only candidate who employs this type of messaging.
These folks project a message that it should be their way or the highway. The last words you’ll find on their campaign literature are political compromise.
Why is that, exactly?
I mean, sure, there have always been political arguments in our nation’s history. There have always been differences in points of view and political philosophies. But it seems there is less room these days for “working across the aisle,” a concept that almost seems forgotten — at least if you listen to most of today’s political rants.
The older I get, the more centrist I find myself becoming. I don’t believe either side is always correct. In fact, I think both sides of the political spectrum manage to get a lot of things wrong.
I believe there are always at least two sides to every story. You can blame the journalism training in me for that, I suppose. But I rather think it’s more a matter of common sense.
What happened to focusing on consensus over compromise?
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley appeared on Monday’s CBS Mornings from Iowa where she is also working on her presidential campaign. Following an appearance at a CNN town hall event, Haley faced questions about her stance on abortion. Anchor Tony Dokoupil asked Haley about her refusal to state she would ban a federal six-week abortion ban.
Haley justified that by saying there aren’t enough “Pro-Life” votes in Congress for that to come into reality. Here’s a snippet:
In order to do a ban, you’d have to have a majority of the House, 60 Senate votes, and a signature by the president. We haven’t had 60 Pro-Life senators in over 100 years. We might have 45. So the reality is, whatever we do on the federal level has to be consensus.— Nikki Haley
There’s an important point there that everyone missed: If we haven’t had a majority of Pro-Life senators in more than a century, why aren’t the Pro-Lifers taking that to heart? The fact that it has been that long since there were a majority of people agreeing with their position should tell them something. It doesn’t seem to.
But Haley then said we should focus on areas where we can agree. Here’s another snippet:
Let’s stop late term abortions. Let’s make sure that if doctors and nurses don’t believe in abortion, they shouldn’t have to perform them. Let’s encourage more adoptions and make sure our children and foster care feel love. Let’s make sure contraception is accessible. And let’s say that if a woman has an abortion, she shouldn’t go to jail or get the death penalty. Let’s start there, and instead of demonizing the issue, let’s humanize the issue.— Nikki Haley
If that’s where we all can truly agree, why not start there and end there?
This is America, after all. We’re supposed to have freedom, after all. If we approved all of those options, particularly the part about making sure adoptions are easier to complete, thereby getting more children into homes of loving parents, wouldn’t that in itself help discourage abortions?
Some of the same people who consider themselves Pro-Life also stand behind their beloved Second Amendment. They often oppose any gun control laws saying that people will get guns no matter what the law says. A woman determined to have an abortion will likewise find a way. So why do they not see that?
A one-sided complaint
Actor George Takei, who you may know as Mr. Sulu from the original Star Trek recently released an essay through his Substack account. The essay, written by an Indigenous person, takes issue with the continued use of indigenous mascots. Its writer argues these symbols do not leave Native Americans feeling “honored.”
But the writer makes an interesting point about one of the responses she often hears. She says people who raise complaints about such mascots will hear from some who say they know indigenous people who say they don’t care about such symbols and aren’t offended by them.
“You can find people in any culture unbothered by slurs,” she writes. “But that doesn’t negate the people who are.“
Without making a comment on that particular controversy, I’m going to comment on that last line.
She’s quite correct when she says there are people who won’t be bothered by such things.
But she seems to ignore the other side of her own coin: the fact that there are people bothered by such things likewise doesn’t negate the view of those who aren’t.
That point of view is a great example of the issue we face: One side seems to feel that their point of view is the only one that matters these days. (To be fair, I’m not saying that writer feels that way specifically, but taking that statement at face value, it sounds to me that she dismisses the opinion of those who “are unbothered,” at least to some degree.
Too often, that’s how we look at everything these days: Our opinion matters. We’re right. Those who disagree need to “educate themselves” so they can think the way we do.
Even when our complaint — or our side of an issue — seems to be the correct, valid, even moral opinion, those who disagree are always the problem. We’re the ones who get it right.
Why can we not see this anymore? Why can’t we think about the other side of the coin?
A sad picture of our politics
It used to be the norm that power at the state level was divided between the political parties. No matter which party with which you identify, you should welcome debate. You should welcome both sides of an issue having the chance to have their say.
But too many people, it seems, aren’t bothered by a lack of representation.
These days, Ballotpedia reports that there are only 11 states that do not have what it calls “a political trifecta.” That’s where one party controls that state’s senate, house and the governorship.
When one side dominates to that degree, how can we make sure both sides of the coin are even heard, much less represented?
Our Constitution was adopted as a result of compromise. That compromise that ultimately got the Constitution ratified came in the form of 10 amendments that we now know as The Bill of Rights. Those 10 amendments provide multiple guarantees to Americans. Not everyone agrees that all of them are necessary — at least not to the same degree that some others do. But the Bill of Rights was designed to provide equality and equal voices.
That’s something we seem to be forgetting how to value these days.