As the results of the presidential election came in last night, I posted on my Twitter feed that, in my opinion, the Republicans’ biggest mistake during this campaign cycle was to demonize the idea of compromise. From a quick scan of the morning news programs today, it seems many of the talking heads from both sides of the aisle agree. Americans are sick of partisan gridlock. The GOP’s very public all-or-nothing platform did not reflect the majority view.
Unwillingness to compromise is by no means the sole domain of the GOP, mind you. Both sides have, over the past couple of decades, become more and more intransigent. “Compromise” has become a dirty word in politics. It’s become a sign of weakness.
I’m not sure exactly when that happened, but I expect it has a lot to do with the emergence of our 24/7/365 TV news cycles. The old saying that controversy sells papers has come to full fruition in the cable news era. Television executives learned early that conflict sells air time, and if a little is good, more is better. They also learned that their now-mature medium is the perfect tool for creating the conflict that so effectively sells their product.
And let’s face it. How many of us would tune into a news program if they were talking about people getting along, making sacrifices, and compromising for the greater good?
Yet, ours is a nation built on compromise. Perhaps even uniquely so.
When I was learning about political science in school, I seem to remember compromise being considered an admirable pursuit. Yes, we all hold strongly to our ideas, values and beliefs. But sometimes we are better served by our willingness to sacrifice some things in the interest of the common good. We have to realize that sometimes what may seem best for “me” isn’t necessarily what’s best for everyone.
Rediscovering the honorable art of compromise is absolutely critical if we want to get our nation un-stuck from its current economic, political, cultural and social malaise. The ability to compromise should once again be championed as a strength rather than vilified as a weakness.
The good news in all of this is that we live in an age where information is becoming more and more democratized, especially with the explosive growth of social media platforms. That means we have perhaps the greatest ability in our history as citizens to hold our elected representatives—and the media that covers them—accountable.
Christians, of all people, should be uniquely equipped to lead the charge. Compromise requires sacrifice and humility, two of the values Jesus reveals as keys to the kingdom of Heaven. Unfortunately, we often seem to be more a part of the problem than the solution. Both conservative and liberal Christians have been equally unwilling to humbly seek the common good above their own religious agendas. We have become more interested in being “right” than in being faithful, loving, just and merciful.
Now is the time to demand from our leaders—and from ourselves—the hard work of cooperation and compromise. Now is the time to put “we” before “me.” To humbly seek the well-being of our neighbors and our world before ourselves.
Whether or not we have the courage to do so may well define our future as a nation.