The Inevitability of Compromise

“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” –James 1:8

In the movie All of Me the soul of Lilly Tomlin’s character is mistakenly trapped inside the body of Steve Martin’s character.  Anyone who has seen this movie has witnessed one of the great masters of physical comedy do some of his best work as his body lurches around, trying to obey the two wills trapped inside it.

It’s funny when it’s Steve Martin, but it’s not so funny when it’s your government.

With the money coming from the extreme wings of each of the two major party—and the influence that it buys flowing back out to them—our federal government and some state governments resemble Steve Martin lurching and tripping around, pushing agendas each farther from the center than the last set of representatives did.

Cover the kids’ ears
As most of the country pleads for reason and cooperation, the word “compromise” becomes a weapon in the arsenals of politicians: “I won’t compromise my principles of [fill in the superficial political objective]”; or “The other side refuses to compromise [while our side is giving up SO much ground]”.

But compromise is exactly what we need for the government to “govern”—and a centrist third party is the way to get it.

We’ve all heard the term “coalition government” but many of us don’t know what it is because it doesn’t really exist in the U.S.

A coalition government happens, primarily in parliamentary systems, when a party wins a plurality of the representative seats, but not a majority.  In order to create a majority and get anything done, the party that won plurality must form an alliance with another party.

This requires some give and take—or compromise—to align their priorities on which to base their agenda.  And this is what the federal and state governments are missing in most of the U.S.

In the U.S., “to the victor go the spoils,” and to the financer goes the influence; the winning party doesn’t have to compromise because they are a majority, and their money sources don’t want them to compromise, so they don’t—not even if it’s the best thing for the people.

When this happens, ideology rules.  It reminds me of another comedic movie, Erik the Viking, in which, when the island of Hy-Brazil begins to sink into the ocean, the government’s official line is to be calm because “This is NOT happening.”

On the other hand, parties in a country where one party rarely gets a majority know that compromise is inevitable.  And the inevitability of compromise makes it a fact of life rather than a flaw or a weapon.

Most of these coalition governments are either center-right or center-left, but the center is almost always a part of them.  Why?  Because that’s where the people are.

Center citizens
This centrism brings stability to the system.  None of the parties can take the government and run hell-bent for the fringes.  No center-whatever coalition will quote the refrain from Washington every other year, “The American people have given us a mandate . . .,” and take the agenda to the extreme.

So what do we do?

–          Support centrist candidates

–          Encourage existing officials to become independent (but you have to have a lot of support in your back pocket to convince him/her)

–          Influence your chosen party toward the center

–          Find a friend from the other side of the aisle whom you can talk to respectfully and intelligently about the issues

–          Support third parties (through activism, funds, and voting)

If we want a country that is not controlled from the fringes like a double-minded man, we must bring the agenda to the center.  And that requires people pulling the influence back from the fringes and into where the citizens are—in the center.

5 Comments

Dave, I’ve never understood the desire for cooperation in government. Cooperation is about the LAST attribute in the world I want the government to have.

Cooperation leads to tyranny. I’d much rather see politicians fight and not “get anything done.” The more they “get done,” the more freedoms we lose.

Also, I don’t understand why you place intrinsic value in “centrism.”

Centrism and extremism are perceived within their historical context. I’m viewed as an extremist today for wanting to repeal the 16th and 17th amendments and the Federal Reserve Act. But am I truly an extremist? I don’t think so.

The Founders would have viewed the health care bill as extreme.

Centrism alone can’t be the barometer for healthy government. There has to be a foundation of principles to defer to.

Otherwise, governance is simply issue-oriented, rather than form and principle-oriented, and what defines the center changes with the seasons.

Final thought: The centrism of today was the bad extreme of yesterday, so I place no value in any policy or proposal solely on the grounds that it is centric. If it’s right and you can get it done through cooperation, good on you, but if it’s wrong but centric, who cares that it’s centric, cooperative, compromising?

Centrist says:

Stephen, as you know, the republican form of government is to mitigate the tyranny of the majority. Refusing to compromise and cooperate leads either to gridlock if you don’t have the numbers to force an agenda or to tyranny if you do.

There have to be the outside thinkers and extremists who bring in new ideas (abolitionists, suffragettes, etc.), but I think good ideas will take hold in the center and win popularity (assuming the center is educated about the truth of them–big assumption).

I wonder whether the Founders would have seen the healthcare bill as extreme; although it fails miserably to accomplish it, its theoretical goal is “to promote the general welfare.” I think that government is within its purview to promote the general welfare through public health, public education, etc., because the lack of these things would be “catastrophic.” I believe too that the healthcare situation will soon reach the level of catastrophe.

I guess I’m operating under the assumption that most people are good and will, if given good information, make good choices (I realize that’s a Pollyanna assumption). It’s getting the info into the brains of the people (and taking the ulterior motives out the of picture for our representatives) that present the problems. Once again, it returns to personal education.

Well, I’d say that was ONE purpose of republican government, though not the sole purpose.

Another, and I would argue greater, purpose is to keep the government checked, balanced, and limited so it doesn’t exceed its bounds.

It has been doing that since the Civil War, and especially since 1913. And I would argue that this is largely because representatives are trying to please the people, not govern according to fixed principles.

And since reps win by pleasing the majority of the people, it seems clear to me that centrism is actually a primary reason for our government getting off track.

Allen Levie says:

Interesting how far have you taken this?

I believe we live in a time when the whole system needs to be reborn. We need to use what we have learned from the U.S. founding era and the after times. We need to come up with new solutions. We need another 5000 year leap (to pay our enormous debts) using current technology and the best and brightest minds today.

Our degree of choice because of new education resources can be taken to a whole new level involving government differently in society.

What we do needs to have global implications through local innovation. Forms that completely change the landscape and operations of society. Especially regarding new copyrights, new currencies, new taxation, new fluid checks and balances, community-to-community relations, new divisions of labor, new mitigation and reparation possibilities, and the loss of freedom and regaining of freedoms through our choices.

We do not live in a stagnate industrial world of autonomous countries and institutional dependence. We live in a biologically dynamic world full of new visual-media and fertile-automation possibilities.

Ownership and education should be able to yield abundance and righteousness faster than in any previous time-period. But we need a new widespread method of self imposed quality control. We see it occurring lightly in wikipedia and other places, but not yet well implemented and not yet at the level needed.

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