Compromise vs. Control – A Challenge for Democracy

Compromise vs. Control – A Challenge for Democracy

Part 2 from …… “Have We Chosen the Wrong Type of People to Govern Ourselves?”

 Uplifting America Series  by Michael Krajovic                    

                   In order to form a more perfect union of people, democracy was established as a better way for groups of people to form and operate a civil society.  A democratic government’s role is to be a place where people of different opinions can assemble to reach compromises about common issues for the common good.  In fact many say that the art of politics is all about the art of compromise.  This generally has been how the basic system of our government was meant to work, but it has not yet achieved this ideal vision, as societal beliefs have faltered.  Sadly government has never been just about the people’s representatives convening while in office to reach compromises for the common good, but over time, it has degraded to the point where the election process is dominated by political parties competing to gain power and majority control of the governmental processes in order to pursue self interests. 

            The effect of this over time has turned political campaigns into vicious attacks to defeat the competition at all costs to gain power and control.  The thought of proposing solutions to serious problems, debating issues and demonstrating personal leadership and sound reasoning has been forgotten under the pressure to raise money to run outrageous and often misleading attack ads against political opponents.   In America, there was a historic change of the normal election process for a democracy during the 2010 election year, where many challengers from the opposing party were able to defeat incumbents without having to publicly debate issues.   Funded by a massive influx of corporate self interest directed money, challengers were able to defeat incumbents simple through massive negative and mostly misleading ad campaigns.  The public elected a new type of person to government – someone who did not have to publicly debate their ideals, ideas or policy positions.  They won by destroying the image of their opponent with enough voters to win the majority of votes.  As a result, the idea of compromise in modern government has regressed.  Compromise is considered a weakness.  Uncompromising fundamentalism is considered strength.

            Compromise, rather than being something that is actively sought within the internal workings of the government process, is something which now might only passively occur over time by default through the external workings of the government election process itself.   For example, over longer periods of time through the law of averages, readjustments may occur, but compromises are not reached.  One party and their supporters benefit from having the power of the majority, and after a few years when the pendulum has swung too far their way, the other party is elected to the majority by disgruntled voters.  It is then their turn to change government policies and appropriations to benefit their supporters when they get back into power.  This has fueled the era of political extremism for each party to win at all costs and inflict as much change as possible while in office.  It is the swing of the pendulum that results in adjustments, not compromises, as government power swings back and forth between political parties as if engaged in an epic battle where the front line shifts back and forth.   I feel that US President Barack Obama has tried to break this cycle by spending time with both sides and by appointing members of the opposing party to key positions in government.  Unfortunately, the radical opponents and much of the American public do not recognize the noble effort to break this very destructive and wastefully ineffective cycle in American politics.  Confused and frustrated voters are easily misled by political campaign managers who know that it is easier to make voters more afraid of their opponent through negative attack ads than trying to convince voters of the merits or leadership of their own candidate.  It is a sad statement that while we believe we live in modern times, fear is the primary political campaign strategy used to in the election process to ultimately choose our government leaders at a time when society desperately needs true leaders.  We may say we live in modern times, but at heart, we are still behaving as a very primitive species.

           And so it is like watching a football game where one team gets the ball and tries to drive down the field.  Sometimes they are stopped and have to punt.  Sometimes they score big and other times they have to settle for a field goal.  Either way, eventually the other team gets the ball. While today it might be an enjoyable pastime watching what your home team will do season after season, it is a not a very effective way of running society. When serious problems need addressed, everyone’s brain power needs to be focused on developing the best solution for the greatest good, not  on seeing who can develop the best offensive or defensive strategy to defeat the other side.  The recent debt ceiling issue in American politics in the summer of 2001 is perhaps the most dramatic example of where a minority of extremists can basically bring government to a stop focusing on just one issue preventing it from addressing  the most urgent and critical issue of the economy.  But they were elected on one issue backed by voter anger and fear that they inflamed.  They, along with many longer term incumbents, do not know how to listen to everyone’s different opinion to build upon the collective wisdom of the group is needed to come up with the best solutions. Solutions that are desperately needed as old social systems begin to fail.

             Unfortunately, the concept of integrity has also regressed as the idea of compromise between both parties has degraded into a sign of weakness.  Agreeing to support some aspect of the opposition’s position is viewed as admitting that there is some aspect of your own position that is wrong.  This polarization exists in a world of duality, of black or white where there is not only no room for compromise, but for new, innovative points of view, except of course when they are your own.  The new integrity has become having to be right all the time.  Admit no mistakes and never be wrong.  Close-mindedness rather than reason has become the norm.  It is an Either – Or, winner-take-all approach.  Simultaneously accepting the merits of each other’s points of view is becoming unheard of.  Even if one party does win one issue, in truth, it is a hollow victory as fellow countrymen suffer.  Deep down at some level, everyone knows that disunity is not a process that will develop a lasting solution.  Since someone has to lose, society as a whole loses.  The sense of fairness is a lost sense of direction.  Divisions widen and frustration from not being able to solve problems increases.  The idea of rugged American individualism combined with pledging liberty and justice for all has been degraded into every person for themselves.

            As a result politics and now government has become much more violent, not physically yet, but verbally where opponents are to be defeated in elections at all costs regardless of the tactics used.  Seriously discussing issues is avoided as attack and defend political strategies set the tone for elections which are expressed in the media as short, repetitive phrases.  There are so many accusations and so much arguing that the public becomes confused and susceptible to manipulation.  The uninformed and disgruntled public is easily swayed through simple but frequent exposure to ads that aim to convince that the opposing political candidate running for the same office  is to be feared and hated for being the source of your problems.  This takes a lot of money, so those with the largest pocketbooks, usually win by saturating the media with their attack ads. The golden rule of politics of “He who has the most gold rules” is truer today than ever before as greater individual and corporate wealth concentrates into fewer hands.   While the public is confused about who to blame and what needs addressed, this public distraction creates an opportunity for others to profit.   Regardless of the issues, there is one overwhelming fact and undeniable trend that continues to grow at an alarming rate during all of this turmoil, the super wealthy are getting wealthier and the masses are getting poorer.  And so the money spent on winning elections continues to set new records with each passing election.  Billions will be spent on the US presidential election alone.  And the bankers and corporations who are spending this money are not doing it to support useless political ideology, but to influence government policies to advance their self interests and increase their profits.

           As a result, truth, honor, integrity, morality, values and principles have become virtually meaningless concepts in modern politics.  They have become so meaningless, that private, individual sexual experience is now the barometer to measure individual character fitness to either run or stay in office.  Lacking other methods, individual sexuality which should be a private matter is now used to judge the ability to govern and to condemn individuals.   And even this is not consistent.  Some politicians having affairs are not asked to resign while other “sexting” phone pictures without actual physical sexual contact are forced to resign in disgrace.   Is this the only measure our society can come up with to evaluate someone’s character?  How primitive we are.

            It seems that truth, honor, integrity, morality, values and principles are only raised for moral arguments when attacking an opponent by researching their past for mistakes.   Mistakes should be opportunities for personal growth.  It is what people learn and do after making mistakes which molds their true character.  Some of the best and wisest leaders are those who made mistakes and learned from them in their youth.  But today someone can be discredited so easily with attack ads about their past without ever having a chance to respond.  Their personal life is scrutinized for failures as an evaluation of character.  But who among us has not made a mistake?  “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.”  As a result many qualified people do not run for public office because they don’t want their personal history often decades earlier to be the judge of who they are as a person now.  What if they shoplifted as a teenager, went through a divorce, got caught drinking beer, smoking pot, got fired, were arrested for “driving while intoxicated”, had child out of wedlock, wrote a controversial college paper, suffered a bankruptcy, purchased adult sexual movies, have a child with drug problems, a relative with a criminal record, once belonged to a group that went radical, or had their picture taken with a person who turned out to be a criminal later on?  Any of these and thousands of other experiences could be manipulated to embarrass anyone nationally.  A few million dollars spent on false or misleading sensationalism could destroy a worthy candidate’s entire campaign for office.  While it may only take a few seconds to throw a stone, it may take weeks to heal the wound.  This has left the door open for others to seize control of the government that is supposed to be of, by and for the people.  Narcissistic people who have no regrets, admit no mistakes and have self inflated egos are left to run for office.  Other people are elected to office without much public experience, leadership or genuine desire to serve others other than themselves.  Often they are safe political bets because they have led very quiet and private lives.  Their image can be molded by public relations’ professionals and campaign managers.  They can now win an election by speaking as little as possible except for launching their planned attacks against their opponent.  Wealthy individuals and corporations who have the money to fund these types of campaigns are now able to gain control of politicians, who feel they have no other choice, but to play ball with them and do their bidding if they expect to gain and maintain their careers in public office.  The elected representatives of the many have become subservient to wishes of the few. 

         To break these primitive human behaviors used to simply gain government control , we must bring integrity and values back into our political process. We must rebuild the true human spirit of cooperation where people of different opinions can contribute to develop the best alternatives through the art of reason and compromise so that the control of the government can return to the people.  But to do this, the will of the people must change first.

         I invite you to read the third part next in the four part series of articles, for more insight into answering the question –“Have We Chosen the Wrong Type of People to Govern Us?”

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