//What We Talk About When We Talk About Compromise

What We Talk About When We Talk About Compromise

Sometimes lost in all this is that compromise is based on a premise.

As Democrat Senators attempt to chuck procedural grenades to thwart a judicial nominee that they somehow unanimously agreed was fit for service just 10 years ago, I ponder the meaning and entailments of ‘compromise’ in our society.

What does compromise mean to the average American?

In politics, it can be both a dirty word and a clean start. What does compromise mean to you? Our lives are enveloped in a series of compromises determining where we live, what we drive, the places we go and the people we love.

Sometimes lost in all this is that compromise is based on a premise.

Simultaneously, the premise is frequently and unequivocally confused with precedent. Have you ever hung your head in a lull fixation on the ground beneath your feet asking “how did I get here?” A compromise can lead us down the wrong path if its basis for moral legitimacy is the tacit and unquestioned acceptance of previous compromises. Premise represents principle whereas precedent represents a trend.

In 1928 John Tyler, 10th U.S. President and then-Virginia Senator, joined John C. Calhoun in a fierce legal battle against what would become known as ‘The Tariff of Abominations.’ In a nutshell, this was an extreme tax in upwards of 68% on 90% of imported goods; goods the South didn’t produce and directly needed from Britain. More importantly, it stifled Britain’s ability to buy cotton from the South. It was actually an elaborate ploy to gain political support in the North for Andrew Jackson Democrats but failed epically. This lead to the nullification crises of 1832 in which South Carolina voted to invalidate a federal law.

The next year a compromise was reached, new Tariff legislation was enacted promising taxes would incrementally go back to normal by 1842 and everyone had their feel good moment. That is until 1842 when the government implemented a new ‘compromise’ basically erasing the former spirit of the 1933 agreement. This series of compromises also gave birth to the Force Act, which officially gave the government military power over the states to enforce tariffs.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Republican congressmen repeatedly passed bills and resolutions to repeal New Deal policies knowing they were in the minority and such considerations would be vetoed (sound familiar?).

Anyways, upon winning the White House and Congress in 1952, Republicans squandered every good faith effort to repeal such redistributionist policies, instead arguing for reform and compromise. Historian Theodore Lowi observed the following on 1950’s politics:

              “The Republicans of the day ran as conservatives but governed as Democrats, not in opposition to big government spending and New Deal Policies but in an assertion that they could do it better and more efficiently.”

Dwight Eisenhower, a populist who identified as a “Dynamic Conservative”, used the Soviet threat as vindication for not only increased military spending but the support of Depression Era social programs. He invoked precedent, not a premise for his signature Interstate Highway System, saying this:

              “”I have just one purpose … and that is to build up a strong progressive Republican Party in this country. If the right wing wants a fight, they are going to get it … before I end up, either this Republican Party will reflect progressivism or I won’t be with them anymore.”

As the House Freedom Caucus fights a war on two fronts, I applaud them for remembering the difference between premise and precedent and the perils upon which such confusion can bind us.

As the Democrat Party launches an ad-hominem attack on a SCOTUS nominee that received the highest possible rating from the American Bar Association, I am reminded of the precipitous path to ruin that can fall our republic when trends and precedents become normalized in the realm of political compromise.

By |2017-04-07T13:24:26-04:00April 7th, 2017|

About the Author:

Dylan Lloyd
Dylan (Bachelors in Journalism, Radford 2005) is a lifetime Virginia resident, liberty activist and amateur zombie hunter.