That word in the title is a dirty word to many. It seems to put teabaggers and firebaggers in a suicidal rage and can make partisans of all stripes a wee bit queasy. And yet, compromise is at the heart of our system of government. All progressive progress since 1776 has come through a series of hard and often bitter compromises. To reject the very idea of compromise is to reject the idea that Government by the people, of the people and for the people is a good thing. Because there are a lot of us with many different views and ideas of how to move forward. Some of these ideas are good. Some bad. Quite a few are horrible. Some only improve when tested against other ideas. The best ideas are tested by compromise and improve over the years.
Of course everything I just wrote is heresy if you view compromise as an evil in and of itself.
This is especially true if you’ve narrowed your political world view to the lens of a favorite single issue (or two) and force all of your thinking and reactions through the force rigidity that their talking points demand. If that is how you view the world then the notion of compromise is simply vile. Now, some would argue that this view of compromise as the great evil is evenly distributed between the left and the right or between Democrats and Republicans. That is, of course, pure bullshit. Yes, the Left/Democrats have their Firebaggers, but these folks are a tiny grifter minority whose main function seems to be to lighten the wallets of the gullible. Most Democrats view compromise the way Teddy Kennedy viewed it–as the best way (and the only way) to get things done.
But over on the right, the grifters control the show and any compromise is evil–especially any compromise with a Black President.
This is especially true of the Republican Party which has been taken over by neo-Confederates. Like their fore-bearers of old, this modern
Republcan Confederate Party would rather blow up the Nation than compromise on any item that might harm the oligarchs running the con. Then, as now, it was about money and the right of the few to steal the labor of others while passing on the cost of their corruption to the majority. Then, as now, they built their political world view upon a foundation of magical thinking, fear and hate. And then, as now, they would do anything and everything to destroy the President of the United States. Then it was Abraham Lincoln. Now it is Barack Obama.
I had an email the other day from Dan, a BJ reader, who mentioned that the current debt crisis was “economic Fort Sumter” for our 21st Century
Republcan Confederate Party. There is some truth to that. The first half of 1861 was a time when Confederates were convinced that they shit gold and spat fire. They were certain that when they acted the rest of the Nation and the World would follow their script. Compromise–or even giving President Lincoln a fair hearing–was out of the question. The only path was the path of Confederate fantasy and so the War came. Shots were fired on Fort Sumter, but things did not go according to plan.
History repeats as an echo with Wingnutopia and the Confederates in the 112th Congress. Once again, they are convinced that their fantasies are bold and true and that they must tear the Nation apart to “save it”. This time, the hostage isn’t a Fort in Charleston Harbor–it is the economy. Once again, they are convince if they pull the trigger, everybody will fall in line. These modern Confederates are just as crazy as their 1861 role models. You can tell how crazy they are by their auto-hostility to any hint of compromise–especially if the compromise has anything to do with that Black man in the White House.
And yet, compromise is at the very heart of America. Compromise is the foundation of our laws, our Constitution and our system of Government. Without compromise, everything falls apart. That is what the Confederates knew 150 years ago and what the
Republcan Confederate Party knows today. If you can make compromise a dirty word–a shame to be avoided at at cost–you can destroy the Union. And tearing apart the Union was the goal then and it is the goal now.
Some are starting to notice that this hate of any compromise with Barack Obama is a dangerous sickness. Nicholas Kristof called out wingnut extremists and their insane desire to damage America in a must read editorial in today’s NYTs, but he stopped short of linking this madness to the leadership of the GOP. Other have made that link and in the coming weeks more folks will. As the Confederate attack on our economy heats up, connecting the dots will be unavoidable–even for the Villagers of DC.
President Obama has been pointing out rejection of compromise by the Republicans for months. In his press conference on Friday evening, when asked who Americans should blame if Social Security checks are not mailed in August, he said (emphasis added):
We should not even be in that kind of scenario. And if Congress — and in particular, the House Republicans — are not willing to make sure that we avoid default, then I think it’s fair to say that they would have to take responsibility for whatever problems arise in those payments. Because, let me repeat, I’m not interested in finger-pointing and I’m not interested in blame, but I just want the facts to speak for themselves.
And in answer to another question he added:
Last point I’ll make here. I mean, I’ve gone out of my way to say that both parties have to make compromises. I think this whole episode has indicated the degree to which at least a Democratic President has been willing to make some tough compromises. So when you guys go out there and write your stories, this is not a situation where somehow this was the usual food fight between Democrats and Republicans. A lot of Democrats stepped up in ways that were not advantageous politically. So we’ve shown ourselves willing to do the tough stuff on an issue that Republicans ran on.
Now some might ask: “Why is Obama still willing to try to work out a compromise with these fuckers?”. It is a fair question. After all, these folks are united in a desire to destroy him and are willing to do great harm to America if that harm might damage President Obama and/or his Party. These folks have rejected potential deals designed to cater to their stated fantasies and wish lists. The President has agreed to cuts that will do great harm and that put him at odds with many activists, leaders and members of his Party. And yet, he keeps advocating the idea of compromise as an American virtue and a goal worth pursuing.
Earlier on Friday, President Obama explained why at a Town Hall meeting in Maryland:
Q Hi. My name is Mary Wagner. I teach government at Blake High School in Montgomery County … And one of the things that we teach our students when we’re teaching them about this governmental system that we have is how important it is in a two-party system to compromise. And my students watched the Republican leadership after the last election saying things out loud like, we’re not going to compromise with the Democrats. And does that mean — are things changing? Do we not use compromise anymore? And what should I teach my students about how our government works if people are saying out loud, we’re not going to compromise with the other party? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I think you should keep on teaching your students to compromise, because that’s not just how government works; that’s how life works. How many people here are married? (Laughter.) For those of you who are not but intend to get married, let me just tell you — (laughter) — you better get used to compromise.
All of us have particular views, a particular vision, in terms of where we think things should go. But we live in societies, we live in communities. And that means we never get our way a hundred percent of the time. That’s what we teach our kids. That’s what we teach our students. That’s how government has to work.
And there’s this notion — I was actually reading an article on the way over here, and the basic notion was that, well, Obama is responsible, but he doesn’t fight enough for how he believes, and the Republicans are irresponsible but all full of conviction. So this was sort of the way the article was posed. And this notion that somehow if you’re responsible and you compromise, that somehow you’re giving up your convictions — that’s absolutely not true. (Applause.)
I think it’s fair to say that Abraham Lincoln had convictions. But he constantly was making concessions and compromises. I’ve got the Emancipation Proclamation hanging up in the Oval Office, and if you read that document — for those of you who have not read it — it doesn’t emancipate everybody. It actually declares the slaves who are in areas that have rebelled against the Union are free but it carves out various provinces, various parts of various states, that are still in the Union, you can keep your slaves.
Now, think about that. That’s — “the great emancipator” was making a compromise in the Emancipation Proclamation because he thought it was necessary in terms of advancing the goals of preserving the Union and winning the war. And then, ultimately, after the war was completed, you then had the 13th and 14th and 15th amendments.
So, you know what, if Abraham Lincoln could make some compromises as part of governance, then surely we can make some compromises when it comes to handling our budget. (Applause.)
But you’re absolutely right that the culture is now pushing against compromise, and here are a couple of reasons. I mean, one reason is the nature of congressional districts. They’ve gotten drawn in such a way where some of these districts are so solidly Republican or so solidly Democrat, that a lot of Republicans in the House of Representatives, they’re not worried about losing to a Democrat, they’re worried about somebody on the right running against them because they compromise. So even if their instinct is to compromise, their instinct of self-preservation is stronger, and they say to themselves, I don’t want a primary challenge. So that leads them to dig in.
You’ve got a media that has become much more splintered. So those of you who are of a Democratic persuasion are only reading The New York Times and watching MSNBC — (laughter) — and if you are on the right, then you’re only reading the Wall Street Journal editorial page and watching FOX News. (Laughter.) And if that’s where you get your information, just from one side, if you never even have to hear another argument, then over time you start getting more dug in into your positions.
They’ve actually done studies — this is interesting — that if you put people in a room who agree with each other basically — if you just put a group of very liberal folks together and they’re only talking to each other for long periods of time, then they start becoming — they kind of gin each other up and they become more and more and more liberal. And the same thing happens on the conservative side; they become more and more and more conservative. And pretty soon you’ve got what you have now, which is everybody is demonizing the other side; everybody considers the other side completely extremist, completely unscrupulous, completely untrustworthy. Well, in that kind of atmosphere it’s pretty hard to compromise.
So we have to wind back from that kind of political culture. But the only way we do it is if the American people insist on a different approach and say to their elected officials, we expect you to act reasonably, and we don’t expect you to get your way a hundred percent of the time, and we expect you to have strong convictions, but we also expect you to manage the business of the people. And if you’re sending that message, eventually Congress will get it. But it may take some time. You’ve got to stay on them.
I, for one, am glad that the President defends the idea of compromise. I think finding the point of balance and how folks can work together is a good thing. It is what America does when we are at our best. Rejection of balance–rejection of compromise–is what we do when we are at our worst. You may disagree, but perhaps if we talk and understand each other beyond the limits of my prose or yours we will find a point of balance, a point of compromise and enough agreement to work together on something bigger.
President Obama was right about Lincoln. He was a great compromiser. So was FDR. So was LBJ. So was MLK. Compromise has been at the root of all progress. Negotiations can be hard. Bitter. Difficult. It has always been this way. And yet, Americans find a way to work together. We find a way to compromise even with folks where the disagreement is real, painful and deep. Rarely has there been a political movement in America dedicated to the rejection of compromise in any form, but it did happen 150 years ago.
The opposition Lincoln faced was insane and willing to destroy the Nation to feed their delusions of grandeur. The costs of that total rejection of compromise was high in blood and treasure.
After the Confederates were defeated in battle, no President has faced an opposition willing to destroy the Nation rather than compromise with him. That changed in 2009 when Barack Obama became President and the neo-Confederates took absolute control of the Republican Party and the “Conservative” movement in America. Since that day this dedicated group of radicals has been willing to destroy the Union if that might also destroy Obama. Taking a tip from the Fire Eaters of old, the key strategy and only tactic of these neo-Fire Eaters is to refuse any and all efforts to compromise on any issue. The goal is to force crisis after crisis on the Nation until it breaks. Their hope is that a shattered Nation will blame the Black man in the White House and not them. Tonight the hostage is raising the debt limit. When it is resolved another hostage will be taken.
It is all madness.
150 years ago tonight the Nation was learning about the First Battle of Bull Run. Almost 5,000 were killed, wounded or missing and the Confederate fantasy of a cost-free rebellion met the first stiff winds of reality. Still it would take many more lives before the traitors swapped their fantasies of easy rebellion for dreams of a “Lost Cause”.
And the 21st Century
Republcan Confederate Party is still at war with America. All they have–all they ever had–is a sea of lies and their hate. They really hate what America has become. They hate the melting pot. They hate the diversity. They hate the rights that workers have and that women get to have control over their lives and their bodies. They hate a lot about America. Mostly they hate that a Black man could be elected President.
To feed that hate they will reject all compromise and crash the economy. And then these assholes imagine the world will thank them for all the destruction.
Good luck with that.