There is a new dirty word in the modern world of political discourse. This word has the power to transform its practitioners into pariahs to those who worship at the altar of absolutism. The word that is sorely missing from the modernity of politics is compromise. Just the mention of this word in some quarters can set the zealots to ranting and spewing invective such as "sell-out," "wimp," and "traitor." But it was not that long ago that compromise was the linchpin that held together this fragile republic.
Ronald Reagan use to say that he would rather get half a loaf than no loaf, the whole loaf not always being possible in the real world of American politics. And Newt Gingrich, the firebrand conservative warrior, spent many hours across the negotiating table from President Clinton in an attempt to walk away with, not what was perfect, but what was good. Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Reagan, et al knew that the perfect should be strived for, but should never be the enemy of the good. The good being that half a loaf when a whole loaf was not possible.
This nation's history is saturated with compromise. In fact the very document which formed our government and society, the constitution, was birthed out of myriad of compromise. The constitutional convention that lead to that most sacred document was arguably the most contentious and compromising political event ever. The Founding Fathers were not in agreement as to how this new government should be formed. Their beliefs ran the gambit from not forming a new government at all (which Thomas Jefferson who was not in attendance advocated) to creating a system where there would be no states rights, only a sovereign federal government (which Alexander Hamilton and George Washington advocated).
Through the sweltering summer days of 1787 in a Philadelphia hall, the Founders of this great nation were moved by the spirit of compromise to form a government which would allow for the free exercise of the people's God-given rights, and yet still empower a central government to the extent it needed to be to protect those rights. Those wise men who gave us the greatest system of government ever devised did not do so out of a religious adherence to their individual beliefs, but out of the perspicacity that comes from compromise. Each one knew that half a loaf was better than no loaf.
From that auspicious founding of this great nation forward, the greatest of our advances has come not from standing on the lofty perch of perfection, but from rolling up our sleeves and digging the foundation of reasoned solutions with the implement of compromise. Too many of us today have forgotten the lessons of our Founders, and have even recast them as men who held collective principles which they enshrined in our constitution. Instead it was the many deeply held and disparate beliefs of our Founders that came together in compromise that breathed life into the greatest document of change the world has ever seen.