Compromise Is A Conservative Virtue


Jon Rauch delivers a reality check:

Playing hardball in politics is not unhealthy. Hardball is often necessary and important, and many who complain about it should pay more attention to getting better at it. Madison’s framework does not require or desire that individuals should all be moderates. But to valorize hardball for its own sake is unhealthy, and even more unhealthy is to veto a compromise simply because it is a compromise. There is no contradiction between compromise and political principle, or at least no necessary contradiction. Nor is compromise at odds with constitutional principle. Just the reverse: Compromise is the most essential principle of our constitutional system. Those who hammer out painful deals perform the hardest and, often, highest work of politics; they deserve, in general, respect for their willingness to constructively advance their ideals, not condemnation for treachery.

No one is saying, of course, that anyone should support anything only because it is a compromise, any more than that he should oppose something only because it is a compromise. The point, rather, is that compromise is a republican virtue. It endows the constitutional order with stability and dynamism. It not only tempers the worst in us; it often brings out the best. It is patriotic, not pathetic, and it deserves to be trumpeted as such.

A reminder of a president the Tea Party would despise if he were currently in office:

The enactment of Reagan’s monumental tax cuts in 1981 caused huge deficits, forcing both parties to scramble to hold them in check. The next year Democratic and Republican negotiators from Congress and the White House reduced deficits by cutting spending and increasing revenue. Democrats urged Reagan to allow a three-month delay in a tax cut scheduled for 1983 as the price of them agreeing to spending cuts. He accepted that, but refused a demand that he reduce the cut from 10% to 5%. Reagan said, “you may make me crap a pineapple, but you won’t make me crap a cactus.”

The final deal was a carefully balanced package of provisions that one side or the other detested. The essence of compromise is giving up something you care about to gain something else more important. Reagan understood this, but he realized that his supporters would understand that in compromising he had not turned his back on his ideals.

(Photo via Wiki: “Referred to as the second of the two “Reagan tax cuts” (the Kemp-Roth Tax Cut of 1981 being the first), the Tax Reform Act of 1986 was also officially sponsored by Democrats, Richard Gephardt of Missouri in the House of Representatives and Bill Bradley of New Jersey in the Senate.)