Over the past year and change, I’ve had the distressing opportunity to watch as the far right and the far left increase their rhetorical stances and poison the political debate. One of the facets that both sides share is an absolute insistence that their way is the right way, and that no shifting is to be allowed from that. Any politician – or any commentator – who strays from their ideal of purity immediately comes under attack.
The end result is a poisonous atmosphere in which accomplishing anything becomes extremely difficult. When pushed to a “No Compromise” and an “all or nothing” stance, the end result is that both sides achieve nothing. To the purists, compromise is a dirty word. While both sides try to paint themselves as being in the majority, or representing the beliefs of the majority, the reality is that both are in the minority. The much larger majority is more realistic.
In real life, and effective politics, compromise is the norm. It’s the way society functions. We negotiate so that we get something in return for giving something. Whether it’s deciding what to have for dinner, or deciding just how much funding we’re going to give for road maintenance, we negotiate until we come up with a workable solution that mostly satisfies everyone. It’s not “perfect,” but it’s acceptable. Nobody “wins” but nobody “loses” either.
Which is something the purists – the extremes – have forgotten, or are unwilling to accept. The problem is for all of us is that because they are making so much noise, they’re drowning out the voices of those who are saying “just get it to work!” When you look at the statements from various Tea Party leaders, or those representing the more extreme Left groups, you see them painting the most recent election results as a vindication of their stance, followed by demands that there be no variance from them on the part of politicians. The real message that was sent is that most people want Congress to stop being “pure,” and get something done. Compromise is not a dirty word – It’s a necessity. It may take another electoral slap in 2012 to send the message, because both side’s extremists definitely aren’t getting the message.