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U.S./ Compromise: A forgotten republican virtue

March Thu 10, 2011

Compromise is the Price of Civilized Society  Compromise is the Price of Civilized Society

Alan Greenspan called compromise on public issues “the price of civilized society, not an abrogation of principle.” Greenspan’s position is probably the result of advising and working closely with each president from Gerald Ford until George W. Bush.  Yet his pragmatic approach is lost on many politicians, especially those with parties in the majority.  The passage of health care reform and the present conflict in Madison, Wisconsin are sure examples of politicians using majority status as an excuse to avoid compromise.

 

No compromise” is the default position almost whenever the opportunity pokes its head. Compromise is written off as politically inexpedient, weak, and unnecessary when there is a legal means to avoid it.  These assumptions are inappropriate in light of our history, the Constitution’s spirit, and political reality. 

 

On the road to passage of health care reform, Republicans were told to take a back seat.   Democrats had been elected to govern, and they were going to govern.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s goal was to create a bill that would pass by one vote, not a bill that could enjoy wider bipartisan support.  This, even though some Republican support may have been added by cutting out components like the individual mandate or by adding in stronger tort reforms and real pro-life protections.

 

Now, in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker is staring-down the Democratic minority in the legislature.  Senate Democrats have left the state to prevent passage of a bill that would limit the benefits and collective bargaining rights of teachers.  Democrats are willing to accept some of the bill's provisions, even some that would decrease teacher take-home pay, but Democrats will not support the bill as long as it limits collective bargaining.  Gov. Walker and his majority won't budge.  He says that the changes are necessary to fix the state's budget crisis, a somewhat tenuous connection since we are talking about a present budget crisis and future collective bargaining rights.



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