Is compromising good or bad? - Keith Roulton editorial
Looking around the world these days, it’s hard to figure out what causes more trouble: people who compromise too much or people who rigidly stand up for their principles.
Right now there’s been a new outbreak between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours – two peoples who stubbornly insist that they are the only rightful occupants of the same territory. Israelis keep electing hard-liners like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (though barely in the most recent election) who insist that land occupied in the 1967 war is now part of their country, including Jerusalem, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims, and the West Bank where Israel builds new settlements.
Both sides have had moderate leaders who sought a peaceful solution over the years, but generally they have eventually been rejected in favour of those who promise them total victory. Palestinians now appear to be represented by Hamas, a radical group that calls Israel the “Zionist enemy” and advocates the “liberation of all of Palestine”. Periodically, when the Israeli government does something it finds abhorrent, Hamas fires rockets into Israel, keeping Israeli civilians in a constant state of apprehension.
Outside observers have long advocated a “two-state solution”, allowing both Israel and an unoccupied Palestinian nation to co-exist, but as one journalist covering the current outbreak of violence pointed out, faith in the possibility of a two-state solution seems to be fading on both sides.
What’s the answer then? A “final solution” that wipes out one side or the other? Surely, given the memory of Nazis trying to exterminate all Jews during the Holocaust, Israelis can’t want this. Yet to come to a lasting peace, both sides must compromise, something no one seems to be willing to do.
For many people, compromise is a dirty word – something you do when you aren’t willing to stand up for what’s right. We see
the bad side of compromise among Republicans in the U.S. who have sold their souls to the cult of Donald Trump. Last week her fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to strip Liz Cheney of her leadership role. Her sin was that she continued to say that former President Trump was fairly defeated in November’s presidential election and that Trump encouraged the insurrection that saw his supporters attack the Capitol building to try to prevent Electoral College votes being counted, officially acknowledging Joe Biden’s election as President.
In punishing Cheney, the Republican Congressional representatives have thrown their party fully behind Trump’s “big lie” that he actually won the election but it was stolen from him. They are so afraid of his threats to endorse candidates in future primaries to run against incumbents who cross him, that they have compromised their own moral authority. Some have even denied there was anything wrong with the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol. Asking us to disbelieve what we saw in video evidence. One Republican last week said the description of the event as a riot was a “bold faced lie” and that what actually happened more closely resembled a “normal tourist visit” than a deadly attack.
Meanwhile Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sticks by his principles, even if he has muted his earlier declaration that Trump had encouraged the Jan. 6 insurrection. He’s declared his one goal is to block all President Biden’s initiatives so that he fails in his goals and is defeated in the next election.
It’s a tactic President Biden should know well because it was also used against President Barack Obama when Biden was his vice-president. In his memoir A Promised Land, President Obama writes about trying to find a compromise to get Republican support for his stimulus bill, designed to spur the economy after the 2008 recession. They went back and forth for weeks watering down his original proposal, hoping to satisfy Republicans, only to have them vote against the bill. Democrats had the votes to pass the legislation anyway but valuable time was lost, delaying the recovery and turning voters against Obama in the meantime.
The most famous example of trying to compromise with someone who won’t compromise was British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler in 1938 which allowed Germany to invade portions of Czechoslovakia in return for “Peace for our time” for France and Britain. A year later the countries were at war anyway.
So, as in most things, nothing is simple when it comes to compromise and principles. Standing up for your principles can be a
good thing, if compromising will bring a negative result. Compromise can be good to resolve issues, but not if you compromise morality.