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  • Reverend James Squire

The Lost Art of Compromise

Photo by Brett Jordan

I found locating a book on my bookshelves, The Art of Compromise, to be a challenge. It had many insights that would help the House of Representatives. Just as I had difficulty locating the book among many in my office on bookshelves, the House of Representatives is having more difficulty finding compromise among their members. Jake Tapper, talking head for CNN, had an animated interview recently with Steve Womack, a Republican member of the House of Representatives. The interview was just prior to the House taking the weekend to go home to calm down. There have been threats to those with whom they disagreed as well as intense Republican members have been blaming one another for the stalemate that has held up incredibly important business that Congress has to discuss and move these issues forward. We have two wars occurring as well as the next financial reckoning that is nearby.

Tapper and Womack have great respect for one another. Tapper thinks Womack would make a wonderful Speaker of the House so it was an amicable exchange. In summary, Womack was frustrated that those who followed Gaetz in removing McCarthy did not see the ramifications for what they did. They had performance and not policy on the brain.

Tapper indicated that the House was acting like high schoolers. Womack thought that was giving them too much credit. Womack suggested that he thought Middle Schoolers would be more apt. Meanwhile people are dying literally by the minute. Part of what I remember about the book that I was attempting to find were also the words of President Biden when I asked him when he was a Senator to come and talk to our school community. He said that politicians have forgotten about the importance of the art of compromise. It is now a dirty word associated with cowardice and party politics by both Republicans and Democrats.

We need to remember that compromise was at the heart of the writing of our Constitution. What became known as the “Connecticut Plan” resulted in a compromise giving equal representation for the states in the Senate and proportional representation for states in the House of Representatives. WE BEGAN WITH COMPROMISE. It did not address slavery as an issue.

If we look at our current dilemma in the House through the lens of political ethics and consequentialism, The Maga Republicans couldn’t look beyond their noses of performance to see what this would do to create a government in dysfunction. They have forgotten that the difference between utilitarianism, the greatest good for the greatest number of my group, and a democracy, the majority rules, is that a democracy is about the majority getting into the shoes of the minority and being sensitive to their positions.

Being aware of the consequences is right up front in step number 2 in Dewey’s Decision-Making Steps that choices and consequences are tied together as one always affecting the other.

Our ethical dilemma is that two issues are what is holding the House back from resolution. First, we have to get rid of the language that describes a judge as a Trump appointed judge or an Obama appointed judge. We need a better shift to see our nation as of primary importance and political party a distant second. We need to stop using political party adjectives attached to everything. We need to look at our recent history and see how Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan could pass significant legislation because they were friends and respected one another. They talked once a day about anything but politics. They were solving problems together. They called each other at cocktail time even when drinks weren’t involved. It was merely a signal to start their non-political conversations. When Biden talked to our school community he simply said, “The problem in Washington is that nobody goes out to dinner with members of the opposite party anymore.” O’Neill and Reagan had strong political policy differences. But they did not let differences stand in the way of compromise.

Today because of Trump with his narcissism and his misplaced values to only care about himself first and the country second, we find his model of discourse to be inappropriate and destructive to our nation. What if legislators were voted for by either party based on the compromises that they could make as opposed to a performance modus operandi? The question for running for office would be, “How many bipartisan bills did you pass or support?

It is ironic that our Constitution is based in compromise while imbedding fairness to states into the very fabric of it. Our founders could see possible consequences of our actions which is why the balance of power is woven into our primary document. That is something that we must learn quickly because when dealing with the human heart and the quest for power, we are seeing first hand what we will continue to be our lives if we don’t change course. The pivot point is compromise.

The video below regarding the Constitution and the history and importance of compromise will provide a brief lesson on the Constitution and compromise. I think that it should be shown to Congress. We need the House of Representatives to start group therapy. I am being very serious. When training at Duke and Duke Medical Center to be a therapist, we were divided into groups that would stay together for a year meeting several times a week in group therapy. In addition, we were required to enter into individual therapy with psychiatrist. Why? The worst thing that can happen when someone comes to you for counseling is to put YOUR STUFF on an individual.

Group therapy was difficult for you depend on other members of the group to capture your essence in exchanges and give you feedback on troubling behavior. Yes, there were tears and confrontations. However, it was worth it to protect the person who came to see you for help.

Once you know as a group how another person comes across, that behavior is difficult to repeat because you have been called out.

Let’s look at the candidates put forward for Speaker. Scalise once said, “I am David Duke without the baggage.” Then came Jordan. He is someone who looked aside as sexual abuse was appearing in front of him and did nothing. He was one of the co-conspirators in Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. To this day, he has refused to say that Biden is President. He was in touch with Trump on Instead January 6 and has forgotten what was said and has refused to honor a subpoena. He hinders partisan relations as his mentor Trump does. He has been an attack dog for the Republicans! His style has been a bully. He did not come out and say that vicious emails to people who voted against him until days after that occurred. But here is the real problem in the House. There are plenty of Republicans who wanted to be reelected so they were silent as Trump single handedly almost destroyed our Democracy. Silence was seen as affirmation of his lie even now when two of Trump’s Lawyers have admitted their lies. On Friday we still heard no response from the House Republicans about that. Liz Cheney will be able to sleep at night. The others in her party perhaps not.

Nothing will happen in the House deliberations until they confront their own role in this attack on our democracy. They can’t find any safe ground. America is the patient. The House’s stuff is being put on everyone else in the Republican Party. They have no insight or do, but don’t want to, or can’t look at it. Until that occurs, nothing is really going to change. Sitting with a client and not giving any feedback results in little happening. It is time for the House to get some guts! There is no neutral ground in ethics. Not to act is to act!

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