Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

Compromise is Not a Dirty Word.

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I don’t know if it is the calm before the storms, but I hope that Mitch McConnell’s almost monastic a-plomb, and the Gregorian “chant-cantational” tone of his post-election acceptance speech does not mask more fiercely uncompromising opposition that may come from Republicans now that they have the majority seats in both Houses of Congress.

Contrast this, if you will, with John Boehner’s Bunyanesque “burn baby burn and the fire this time,” invectives hurled at a recalcitrant President, admonishing him to make if necessary, a Faustian bargain with Republicans if he is to pass meaningful legislation the next two years, makes me wanna holler and throw up both of my hands, in the words of Marvin Gaye, and wonder if compromise is still not a dirty word in Washington.

It is disingenuous to talk of the president “burning himself” when his political proposals have been largely blocked and his political magnum opus which is Affordable Health Care has been gleefully promised to be one of the first things Republicans torch when they return to Congress in January.

He’s already burning. Everyday Americans are already burning for too long with fear, hunger, unemployment and increasing uncertainty about their future. Will somebody please pull out the fire hoses of compassion and put out the mass conflagration now searing in our nation through the lives of everyday folks?

McConnell’s jingles of possible concord between Republicans and Democrats were jangled by Boehner’s virtual innuendoes of even more political discord if the President does not comply with the “my way or the highway politics” that have tested our last iota of patience and virtually strangled our final political breath from us.

It is my hope and unending prayer that the “take no prisoners, no compromise” positions, which have brought gridlock and stalemate in Congress the last few years, will finally come to a screeching halt among both parties by effecting the kind of real political deal making where everybody wins.

Compromise, then, should not be a dirty word in American politics. It is the quintessential element of the politics of statecraft.  It is the sine qua non of American political statesmanship which seems these days to be a “lost art,” in the science and eugenics of precocious political gamesmanship.

There is no shame in the political game when you can get something of everything or everything of something. This is what politics is all about. It’s “you scratch my back and I scratch your  back. Not I scratch your back and you take the back scratcher and go home.,

Compromise is the mother’s milk of American Representative Democracy, the source and sustenance of change and growth in America.

Without compromise we could not have come this far as a nation. We could not have grown from those small flourishing, ragtag colonies to the world’s largest superpower.

Without compromise we could not have negotiated the torrential waters of our nation’s checkered and volatile history. Those courageous souls who staked their territory, stood their ground and forged new pathways to progress and understanding by listening to and working with their political opponents have made the qualitative difference.

Read Chris Matthew’s book, “Tip and the Gipper.” It carefully spells out how two titans of the Beltway fought it out and worked things out to the betterment of the nation. Who serves his country best, serves his party best,” said Rutherford B. Hayes.” Matthew’s book is a metaphor for American politics and a cogent antidote the poisonous atmosphere that has brought ruin to many a nation and can bring ruin to America if a real political climate change does not occur.

Compromise also means that we can agree to disagree without being so doggone disagreeable that we take our bongos and go home and never ever talk or make political music again.

Arriving at compromise is not for chumps or cowards. It is not for the light-headed or the faint-hearted but is for grown folks and mature folks who understand what it means to live in a world with other folks with different points of view and who passionately stand by them and will fight to the finish for the preponderance of the views of their constituents.

Let’s face it. Compromise is the crazy glue of American politics. To throw out the glue is absolutely crazy! Without it, the nation would have fractured into disparate and desperate parts eons ago. The center could not hold without it and that is why we must work to hold the center with it.

Compromise means in the words of the song that everybody must not only take a little but give a little for things to turn out right.

Compromise should not be a dirty word in American politics. It requires listening and responding to one’s opponent. It means arguing it out rather than sulking it out. It means fighting the good fight and drawing battle lines rather than running for cover behind political lines away from the heat of battle. Without it, we are living in a fool’s paradise where the emperor is without clothes, let alone new clothes!

We need representatives who will act with some common sense, which is not common, and possess a civility and respect for each other. We need public servants who will at  least talk with each other in ways that will acknowledge and overcome their stormy disagreements, to finally find the legislative ground that will stake a viable claim for all Americans.

Compromise is not a dirty word. We need more of it for our nation to truly work for the good of all Americans.

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