The Death of Compromise

The retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the United States Supreme Court has once again sparked great debate over the role of the High Court in matters of national concern over fundamental issues.

And, while the regular suspects have lined up for and against the nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, the debate remains the same as it has since the 1980’s.  Is he going to be a pro-life justice?  Is he going to support limited or no gun control?  Is he going to reverse same-sex marriages?

Of course, the interest groups have taken their positions, and they want the populace and enough senators to back them on their issues.

Does the LGBTQ community need to fear that the new justice will push the court to permit states to outlaw gay marriage or adoption?  Do they need to be prepared for Trans people to be required to use the restroom listed on their birth certificate?

Should conservatives be salivating at the opportunity to allow states to permit prayer in public schools?  Should they be excited at the possibility that they will not have to follow the Court’s interpretation of requiring oversight of voting districts in the South based upon the 1965 Voting Rights Act

While these questions are important, they are the dividing lines for two very different sides of the political spectrum that do not want to see compromise.

The question then becomes: why won’t they seek compromise?

In today’s political lexicon, “compromise” is a dirty word.  The wickedness of the word comes from the simplistic notion that if someone compromises with you on a hot button political topic, then they are giving something up.  And, if they are giving something up, then they must not be a true supporter of that idea.

Why then is there no room for compromise?  The supporters and the branders of these positions in politics that so deeply divide the nation are Interest Groups.  We can make no mistake about that. These are Interest Groups that derive their revenue from supporters of their given agenda items, and the groups cannot survive without that revenue.

True believers will not give money if there is compromise on a hot button issue.  This goes for either side of the political spectrum.  Moreover, this is the conundrum that politicians and would-be statesmen face today.

The leaders of a special interest, be it gay rights, land rights, gun rights or abortion rights, will not remain in charge, and their interest group will go bankrupt, if there is even the slightest hint of compromise on his or her issue.  Their entire existence depends upon zero compromise.

And yet, compromise is what our republic has always been about.  Whether it was compromise at the Constitutional Convention, the myriad of compromises over slavery in the 19th century, or compromises over the role of government in the 21st century, our democratic institutions thrive under compromise.

The budget of the United States was last balanced under compromise in the 1990’s between a Democratic President and a Republican Congress.  Tax reform in the 1980’s was a compromise between the Democrats in Congress and the Reagan White House.  Compromise comes when politicians like McCain and Kennedy can come together and compromise.

Sure, there is a place for firebrands and ideologues, but without compromise, the idea of democracy and the democratic institutions in America cannot survive and flourish.

Ed. Note: This was first published on my other blogspot in Autust 2018. That blogspot is closing.

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