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Compromise in Politics: Is It Time for a Divorce?

I'm a professor of history, but my articles (like my classes) cover a range of topics, including education, politics, history, and culture.

Politics Are More Intense Than Ever

In the current political climate, I would be considered moderately left, although I think of myself as more of a general moderate. Twenty years from now, if the political winds have once again shifted, I might have a different label. But I'm not a big fan of political labels anyway. They often say more about the person doing the labeling than the one being labeled.

The Futility of Compromise

Whatever you want to call me, I have been fairly consistent in recent years about one thing. If you look back at some of my political blogs, you will see that I often make an effort to find common ground and call for people on all sides to be open to compromise.

I still believed at the time that there were large numbers of people who either wanted or at least saw the necessity of politicians making compromises. It has become increasingly clear, however, that this is not the case. People that are politically engaged, and the politicians who generally get elected these days, want their side to win, and any indication that a person is willing to compromise is seen as a sign of weakness. And the only time anyone seems to call for unity is when his or her side wins.

Our nation just "elected" as president a man who won by exploiting the anger and the fears of a certain segment of the population, feeding and increasing divisions that were already strong before the election. If Democrats hope to do better in the future, they will probably have to adopt a similar strategy. Either that or they can sit back and hope that the country goes to hell under Trump. President Obama did not win, after all, due to his calls for hope and change. He won by running against the memory of George W. Bush (twice): an unpopular war in Iraq, a pathetic government response to Hurricane Katrina, and a financial implosion that began to unfold shortly before the 2008 election.

Politicians typically win by going negative, exploiting circumstances that can make their opponents look bad, and by telling the most compelling stories. Any rational adult can see that the world is a complicated place and that both the right-wing and left-wing ideological perspectives have their flaws. But humans by and large are not a rational species. It is emotionally comforting to have a neat and orderly worldview that one can use to make sense of the world and settle easily on a course of action. I know from personal experience, after all, that it is very difficult to be a person who instinctively plays the devil's advocate and who wrestles with the world's complexities.

For all I know, there may be a lot of fellow moderates out there. The problem is that moderates are not likely to be the ones making a lot of noise. Moderates tend to be people who either don't think it matters all that much who wins or who get annoyed by the ideologues making all of the noise. So in this nation (and the world) of irrational people who are mostly interested in pushing their points of view and winning political battles rather than having productive discussions and finding common ground, there are a couple of courses of action that moderates can take. They can just check out of politics altogether and tell themselves it really doesn't matter or pick the side that is the least flawed and fight to help it win. And since Republicans have become the party of Trump, that is currently for me an easier decision than normal.

Screw compromise. Let's all be honest and spare one another the disingenuous calls for peace and unity. In a nation where half of the people think that the other half are idiots - and might even be un-American or evil - there is no point in pretending that we Americans feel any sense of unity. Democrats in particular need to stop being pussies (if I may quote Trump) and adopt the win-at-all-costs strategies that many Republicans have clearly and effectively adopted. Either step up and fight for the things you really want or prepare to get trampled by the other side.

There is, however, one clear alternative to this perpetual ideological warfare. We could all agree to a divorce and break this nation up into two or more parts. There are some basic practical problems with this, problems I plan to address in a later blog, but like a couple increasingly getting on one another's nerves, it may be best to call this relationship quits before things get really ugly. It's been a pretty good 241-year ride, but no nation lasts forever. And a world that is kind of tired of the United States butting into everyone's business might be relieved when this superpower is broken up into smaller, potentially weaker parts. This may sound like a crazy, scary, and even inconceivable idea, but it sure would beat having to compromise or even associate ourselves with those bastards on the other side. Yes, it could cause some global, (hopefully) short-term pain, but over the long run, I'm sure that all of us would be better off if we were always governed by people who (more or less) think just like us. All of our problems would be solved.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.