I studied political science under some of the best minds around at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in North Carolina. Later on, for my masters degree in political science (with an emphasis on American politics), I was advised by people who continue to be sought after commentators on the topic.
Throughout my studies, one thing was made clear to me over and over again: Compromise is a required part of American politics.
Compromise is a uniquely American political concept and, to my way of thinking, it’s what makes a democracy work.
Let’s be clear, though. I’m not talking about anyone abandoning their own values or settling for less in their personal goals, dreams, and aspirations.
What I am talking about is taking people from different backgrounds, with a variety of experiences, and with a range of what matters to them and putting them together in a society to govern themselves. For that to work—for it to even have a slight possibility of succeeding—everyone involved will need to compromise.
It’s not necessary (or even desirable) for individuals to give up their right to feel and believe and cherish the people, ideas, and things that are important to them. However, those same individuals are not allowed to transfer, impress, or impose their personal values on other individuals.
Societal values, on the other hand, are just that: the rules, codes, customs, behaviors—and yes, morals and beliefs—that the society has agreed to live by. If an individual doesn’t agree with the values that society has adopted, then that individual is free to try and change a societal value. They are also free to exit the society.
Compromise is a hallmark of a working society. Without compromise, the great experiment that George Washington and his friends envisioned is dysfunctional and cannot continue. Which is why, if you’re a student of American politics like me, or even if you’re just a member of American society, you know how important it is to select leaders who know how to compromise.
In spite of how it plays in the media or to the writers of ten-million-dollar checks.