It was a noun meaning “an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.”
It also was a verb with the definition “settle a dispute by mutual concession” or “accept standards that are lower than is desirable.”
The United States Senate used to pride itself as a chamber of compromise.
“Compromise” used to be considered a good word.
Not so now.
You see, the only important words these days are “win” and “lose.” If you don’t win, you lose, and that is unacceptable.
President Trump and Bernie Sanders are proponents of this philosophy. Each has a strong following of devotees. By osmosis their non-thinking worshipers adopt the all or nothing view of their saint. And partisan politics is the result.
“Compromise” no longer has meaning. Because compromise implies both the words win and lose apply to everyone effecting the compromise. In other words, nobody gets everything they want, but everybody gets something they want. That’s how civilized societies survive.
It’s not unreasonable to surmise that our “civilized” society will not survive as long as the word remains taboo.
I was at a candidate forum recently and a couple of the office seekers said bipartisan approaches work for 60% of the problems dealt with in our national legislature. That sounds good. Until you realize that 40% of the time it doesn’t work and that is the situation with most of our major problems.
Those problems either will not be solved, or a solution will be imposed by one political party, alienating about half the citizenry. Is that what we want? Do we want to wait for our team to be in control and then force our views on everybody else? Is it really better to not give an inch and get nothing of what we want?
I believe no acceptable solutions will occur unless we remove “compromise” from the list of words you teach your children not to say.
I have no insights on how to deal with the difficult problems our nation faces. But I feel the most hope would come from input from a variety of views and a willingness to bring back that word compromise. Let’s look at one of the problems through my highly non-expert eyes.
Social Security! The funds to support it are running out. That’s a fact. So to get somewhere we have to start by not ignoring facts. Is it so unreasonable for one side to consider delaying the age at which Social Security can be received, as long as protections exist for those whose health precludes working longer? Is it so hard for the other side to accept an increased wage cap so those earning large incomes contribute more to the Social Security pool? If we want solutions, we have to ask and answer the difficult questions and recognize we can’t have everything we want.
There are so many other areas that scream for compromise. Any solutions will be difficult to achieve, and I certainly don’t have the smarts to know how to accomplish them. But I know nothing will happen if compromise doesn’t occur. These areas include spending, healthcare, national defense and education, among many others.
We now have a divided government, a sure recipe for stagnation. Unless the word compromise reappears. I have heard it bandied about since the recent election, saying maybe we can find common ground on infrastructure. That’s good, but I also hear both sides say they won’t give an inch on the problems important to them. In other words, they are saying they support no steps to solve problems if it means not getting everything. This is despicable on all sides.
Each of us has to ask where we stand. Are we among those who say all or nothing; only a win is acceptable? Or are we willing to give something in order to get something?
And are there enough good hearted and practical people left to reinstate the word “compromise?”