Prudent political compromise isn't selling out

Politics should not be an exercise in ideological rigidity where one preserves one’s political bona fides at the expense of societal benefit, but rather an exercise in statesmanship that recognizes the shared goal of improving collective well-being and compromising to achieve political progress towards that end. Unfortunately, too many politicians today have denied that long-tested wisdom, prioritizing instead ideological conformity and in the process dooming the nation to years, if not decades, of intense political infighting and stagnation.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, this ideological inflexibility is something both left and right agree on. Conservatives are lambasted as “RINOs” by their party members if they dare to discuss, much less question, sacred right-wing stances such as Second Amendment rights, the pro-life movement, or tax reform. Progressives are equally denounced by their constituents and peers as corrupt or fraudulent if they fail to agree wholeheartedly with hallowed liberal views such as the corrupting influence of money in politics, the deleterious effect of systemic racism on minorities, or the necessity of universal health care. Both sides are excoriated for attempts to reach across the aisle to achieve any sort of workable compromise.

Thus, contrary to Bismarck’s observation, politics today has become the art of the palatable—the exercise of dispensing comforting platitudes that confirm preexisting ideas. Rather than statesmen, we have salesmen, those who sell us the idea that none of our problems are our own to bear, that all that is wrong with the world can be traced back to the foolhardiness and willful malice of the other side, and that if only we pushed a little bit harder to ensure our opponents could not carry out their twisted aims, all would be right with the world (or at least it would all be a hell of a lot more comfortable for people like us).