Compromise. The virtuous word of modern politics. The only word that may be more virtuous is “bipartisan”.
In the case of the recent debt ceiling battle, the c word has everyone giddy with happiness now that the government has reopened. Of course, there was no compromise here, only the other c word – “cave”. In fact, a compromise, though not impossible, was highly unlikely in this case. The reason that there could be no compromise is due to the political landscape in America that has evolved over the last 15 years.
Throughout history, all governments have multiple factions or parties that disagree about a great many things. In most cases, the opposing parties have similar visions of where the nation is going. The main disagreement in these cases is the path to take to fulfill the vision. In some cases, however, the visions of the opposing parties do not coincide. Here are a few examples.
In 17th century England, the Stuart kings had a tendency toward Catholicism and absolute monarchy. Another party in England, known to us as the Puritans, believed in freedom of conscious and limited monarchy. As it turned out, there was little common ground between these two parties once the Puritans gained control of the House of Commons. The result was many years of civil war, the execution of King Charles I, and a government that operated outside constitutional boundaries for many years.
In the United States before the Civil War slavery caused a similar problem. There is little room for compromise between a faction that believes slavery should be legal and a faction that believes it should be banned.
We are in the midst of a similar situation now. We have one faction that is committed to maintaining the traditional economic and personal freedoms as described in the Constitution. The other faction is committed to leaving those traditions and transforming the United States into a collectivist nation. Regardless of which position you agree with, you must recognize there is virtually no common ground between the two positions. As a result, the only way any agenda moves forward is with a total defeat of the other faction.
So that is the essence of what happened in the debt ceiling fight. The faction that supports traditional America was totally defeated. There will be more battles and more defeats for one faction or the other. The problem is, these factions still exist regardless of what happens on the political playing field. In the historical examples above, when one of the factions lost a series of political battles, the result was war. Let’s pray that doesn’t happen this time.