Candidates on the campaign trail routinely make this bold proclamation: “I will never compromise!”
Have they ever heard about The Great Compromise of the Constitutional Convention of 1787? The Missouri Compromise? The FDR/Robert Doughton compromise to pass Social Security in 1935 in return for the Blue Ridge Parkway coming through North Carolina?
The whole concept of America as a self-governing constitutional democratic republic rests entirely on the intelligent practice of compromise. To assert otherwise shows a complete misunderstanding of American history.
What does “never compromising” mean exactly? Do they really mean never compromising their “values”? Or their “principles”? Or their “political goals”?
Politicians have a very hard time understanding the difference between all three. As a consequence, they usually collapse all three into one pot and then fail to accomplish anything major because they can’t separate their values from their principles and political goals.
Bernie Sanders may be the most “principled” of all politicians. Even though everything he says is wrong and won’t work, his values line up with his principles and political goals and he is consistent at least.
By contrast, take every conservative candidate for Congress for the past 20 years. They promise, in order, to: 1) Cut Your Taxes! (check); 2) Strengthen the Military! (check); 3) Protect Your Gun Rights! (check) and 4) Balance the Budget! (oops)”
Then they sign the ‘No Tax Hike” pledge; the ‘Balanced Budget Pledge” and the ‘Keep Social Security and Medicare Safe!’ pledge.
Immediately, they violate their values, principles and their political goal promises. It is impossible to cut taxes, leave entitlements alone and balance the federal budget to name one glaring example of such hypocrisy.
It comes across as lying to the American public. No surprise there.
Lying has never been a virtue in any walk of life. It is a disqualification trait for anyone who purports to run as a candidate of values from any scope of ethics, morals, religious belief or philosophical outlook on life.
Core values are fundamental beliefs that form a person’s outlook on life and daily behavior. Universally accepted norms of honesty, fairness, justice usually make up the bedrock infrastructure of a person’s identity.
“Principles” are the tactics by which a person executes their personal values. Not passing along mountains of debt to our children and grandchildren is one example where a principle is different from values.
A political “goal” is very different from a personal “value” or “principle”. A political goal can be balancing the budget; cutting taxes, strengthening the military, protecting Second Amendment rights or opposing infanticide. Making legislative compromises to achieve your stated policy objectives does not have to violate your underlying values of honesty unless you confuse political goals with values and principles.
If a core value is “honesty”, don’t sign competing pledges. If a core principle is to “do the right thing”, don’t keep voting to spend more money while blaming everyone else for the $22 trillion national debt.
Compromising on taxes to balance the budget does not violate personal principles or values if a representative’s number one political goal is “balancing the budget”. If their number one political goal is to cut taxes under any circumstance, then any concern they have about balancing the budget leaves only one choice to maintain their stated value of honesty: reduce the rate of growth in federal spending, especially in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid since mandatory entitlement programs make up 61% of the budget today.
If an elected official doesn’t know how to count to 218 in the House and 51 in the Senate in order to get a compromise passed, then we as a nation have a much greater problem than them trying to understand the difference between values, principles and political goals.
One other core value humans have always admired is “courage”. Wouldn’t it be nice to see some in Washington today?
(first published in North State Journal 5/22/19)