Making Compromise the Norm for Our Society

Democracy is ideally a system of gathering the equally valuable input from all citizens and then fashioning the best solutions possible at the moment for each and every problem.  Democracy should not be about who can “win” and force everyone else to do as they direct; it must be about making the best compromises possible on every issue.  The current emphasis on winning leads to the parties putting off even voting on needed proposals if they cannot win at that moment, which leads to ineffective and then erratic government as they overturn previous “wins” by the other side.  I will work for effective and acceptable compromises for all of our problems.  This will mean some citizens will have to give up their crusades to force their moral beliefs and attitudes on everyone else.  (I believe now that there is more compromising going on in Congress than I realized some months ago, which is all to the good, but more can be done in this regard, and I will champion it, as well as highlight to the public the work of those in Congress who are doing their best to compromise.)

Our citizens are too focused on winning and too little focused on getting things done.  In a diverse country, there will always be opposing views, each with some justification for those views (some more, some less), and this points us in the direction of seeking the most effective compromises on most issues.  It is fine for everyone to state their beliefs and principles, but these positions vary in their pros and cons, and we must incorporate the best from each of them in our effective compromises.  Ideological purity leads us toward winner-take-all government that lurches forward through time constantly changing direction and doubling back on itself as political parties gain and lose power.  I will encourage respectful, well thought out arguments on issues, rather than mutual insults and purposeful exaggeration.  Fighting makes a good draw on TV, but it is not the best way to make decisions or to educate voters.  Fighting and trying to “win” over the other side leads simply to more anger and hatred.  (Compromise is not dead in D.C.  The Bipartisan Policy Center brings Congresspersons together to work on possible compromises out of the media spotlight and facilitates home visits between Republican and Democrat Congresspersons!  The Friends Council on National Legislation (Quaker) also provides private work space and facilitation for efforts toward compromise.)

As an example of compromise, it seems to me that recent positions expressed on abortion (restricting abortion after two trimesters or fifteen weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother) represent an effective compromise.  Neither side gets all it wants, but both sides get something significant.  Going beyond this, to outlawing abortion totally (or removing all restrictions on abortion), moves away from this compromise to attempt an ideological “win” and will engender much more anger and conflict.

The process for effective and amicable compromise is not complicated.

  1. Understand what all sides (blocs and individuals) want.  This may be something concrete but more often is related to something emotional.  This reflects deep visions of our future country, which help to make sense of current requests/demands (viz., the current “culture wars”).  Effective compromise is not just a trade-off negotiation but a quest to find ways to satisfy all sides and to have all sides feel heard and taken into account.
  2. Offer possible compromises that will benefit everyone to some extent.  The common strategy in negotiating of asking for too much, expecting to then have “bargaining room” just slows the process greatly.  It helps to establish trust to offer compromises that one would accept that very day, with no need for “bargaining down” (which is by definition a demeaning process).  This “up-frontness” requires having everyone’s best interest at heart (and believing that everyone else has your best interests at heart) rather than trying to get as much for only one group as one can.  This kind of cooperative compromise work is possible if you care, even a little, about the welfare of other citizens, as well as the welfare of your own group.  If you don’t care about the welfare of other citizens, then you are a drag on the processes that make for a happy, cooperative society.  You may say, “but that’s how people are—trying to get our own way; we’re all that way,” and I say “no, everyone isn’t that way, and it would be a happier and more pleasant country if people who did care about their fellow citizens and about fairness in government would step up to the plate, say so, and vote accordingly!
  3. Accept satisfactory compromises with a good heart, rather than planning already on ways to get more of your way in the future.  Bring up even better compromises as economics or culture changes make them possible.

We can find a solution to any problem if both sides are willing to compromise sufficiently, so when Congress doesn’t find any solution, it means that one side (or both) have been unwilling to compromise sufficiently.  From candidates we usually hear promises about “bipartisan” efforts, which get nothing done because of unwillingness to compromise.  I will do my best to “help” Congress compromise sufficiently, and I will tell you about any resistance to compromise on the part of the parties that is preventing us from finding solutions.

If we understand each other, we can see our similarities better.

Every major piece of legislation contains many compromises.

We need compromises that do the most for the greatest number of citizens and harm the fewest citizens.

Everyone sees things differently, yet we must have laws that apply to everyone. Don’t think that democracy isn’t working just because a law isn’t fully the way you would like it to be.

Trying to win and trying to beat others are the problem!

Give up trying to “win” politically, so we can work together.






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