Barbara Bush criticized the current round of GOP election tactics in comments published yesterday by USA Today. She says that people have come to believe that "compromise is a dirty word" - pretty much a truism these days, when the Republican primaries look more like a dog fighting ring than set of people on the same side of the aisle. It's a touch ironic that Bush made these statements in the course of her promotion of Romney's sometimes-mudslinging campaign.
Is compromise necessarily a good thing in government? As I read the news, "let's compromise" and "being bipartisan" are euphemisms for "let's get nothing done" and "I get my political opinions from watching South Park". Two sides at a disagreement doesn't mean that the truth lies in the middle. Sometimes, one side is just wrong. It's not a shameful thing to believe that politics can include winners and losers, people who are right and people who are wrong. That's just being realistic.
Additionally, "compromise" in the Congress today has meant mostly that Democrats sacrifice their constituents' preferences for Republicans, who then shift farther to the right and continually demand more and more concessions.
Of course, appeals to compromise can reduce the dogmatic politicking that has come out of American culture in the past decade. In my book review on The Age of American Unreason, later this month, I will discuss some of the historical background and cultural contributions to black-and-white political views and a lack of compromise in government. For now, suffice it to say that compromise is indeed a virtue that is undervalued in American culture and governance. Still, we should be careful not to make sacrifices for the sake of sacrifice, or mistake appeasement for honest compromise.
Perhaps, as they say, the truth is in the middle.