Saturday, December 24, 2011

Compromise, or snooker it my way?

Whenever there is an issue in Washington, or any state legislature or city council for that matter, the hew and cry for "compromise" springs up.  Usually asking one side to sacrifice their view, principles, or goals to come along side their more vocal opponents and vote their way.  That was not the traditional understanding of compromise.

Some definitions of compromise:
  • An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.
  • A middle state between conflicting opinions or actions reached by mutual concession or modification.
  • The acceptance of standards that are lower than is desirable.
The latest example of the compromise argument came with the efforts to extend the payroll (your future social security fund) tax holiday.  The essential argument was about how long to extend it.  For a two month period, which requires yet another repeat of the discussion and bashing starting up in a month, or for a full year, which gives businesses and people a stable environment to plan for.  There are some, National Payroll Reporting Consortium, who stated the two month plan cannot even be implemented properly in time.

However Rep Betty McCollum declares this could have been have been a failure to compromise, had Boehner not capitulated a day later.
December 19, 2011 -- Congresswoman McCollum's Remarks on the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Ac bet of 2011 (H.R. 3630)
This bill is likely to be a missed opportunity for true compromise. It does important things, such as extending the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans and preventing a 27.4 percent cut to Minnesota physician reimbursements with a two-year fix.
Either plan would accomplish the main goals she states, but yet only one way, capitulation, constitutes a "compromise" for Betty McCollum, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and President Obama.  So is "compromise" still the case of mutual concessions, or has it become more about how it appears in the media?  An appearance that quite possibly accepts the lesser standard.

Saul Alinsky in “Rules for Radicals” gives light to the new use of "compromise" as a tool for victory
But to the organizer, compromise is a key and beautiful word. It is always present in the pragmatics of operation. It is making the deal, getting that vital breather, usually the victory. If you start with nothing, demand 100 per cent, then compromise for 30 per cent, you’re 30 per cent ahead. — P.59
A writer on the Daily Kos gives his view of compromise as a barrier to continuous progressive change.
There are many, many progressive conservatives in the Democratic party, of course, and even a few (well, one or two) progressive liberals in Congress. But if the Republican party is overwhelmingly regressive, and the Democratic party is largely progressive, what can be said of compromise between the two? What, exactly, is the middle ground between forward and backward?
The answer, I believe, explains a great deal about the current state of our government, our economy, and our nation. Furthermore, I believe it illustrates the ultimate futility of our President's slavish devotion to compromise between the regressive ideas of Washington Republicans and the progressive (if conservative) Democrats.
His creative, though flawed, use of a description of “regressive” vs “progressive” is interesting as a straw man, redefining the participants, to jump to  his conclusion.  The straw man fails in the light of the reality of the steady persistent change toward the progressive world view.  While it is not a strictly straight line trend, the reality is that with each compromise the "center point" shifts.  So the next compromise is based on the cumulative results of the previous compromises as the basis.  Thus creating an ultimately consistent march toward the progressive world view.  That is the meaning of Alinsky’s rule that each “compromise” is a victory and a tool for the radical to advance their agenda.

A story from  “Tom Brown's Schooldays” by Thomas Hughes evokes a clear vision of the new form of  “compromise”, and provides an excellent conclusion. [Note: Tom, et. al. are talking about a second Tom]
"Yes, he's a whole-hog man, is Tom. Must have the whole animal hair and teeth, claws and tail," laughed East. "Sooner have no bread any day than half the loaf."

"I don't know;" said Arthur - "it's rather puzzling; but ain't most right things got by proper compromises - I mean where the principle isn't given up?"

"That's just the point," said Tom; "I don't object to a compromise, where you don't give up your principle."

"Not you," said East laughingly. - "I know him of old, Arthur, and you'll find him out some day. There isn't such a reasonable fellow in the world, to hear him talk. He never wants anything but what's right and fair; only when you come to settle what's right and fair, it's everything that he wants, and nothing that you want. And that's his idea of a compromise. Give me the Brown compromise when I'm on his side."

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