The Case for Compromise  

Posted by Brock Booher

Going into politics is a lot like wrestling with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it. By nature politics is a dirty business, and it is impossible to get involved in the process without getting a little dirty because politics demands compromise.

Compromise is often considered a dirty word. We are not proud of compromising our principles. We avoid compromising situations. We don’t want to compromise when it comes to value. We consider compromise somehow a weaker position. We often consider a politician that has reached a compromise as a sellout. He or she becomes someone who has gotten dirty by wrestling with the pig.

If rights, liberties, justice, and the rule of law are the stones we must use to build a sound representative government, then compromise is the mortar used to hold that government together. A politician that isn’t skilled at using the mortar of compromise will find it very difficult to build anything of lasting value.

We would like to believe that our nation was forged in the patriotic fire described by Patrick Henry when he said, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” It is true that a fervent zeal for freedom beyond the desire for life itself was necessary for us to break the yoke of bondage, but it took more than fire. It took compromise.

When the Articles of Confederation failed to provide the necessary framework for managing and governing a nation such as ours, a Constitutional Convention was formed in 1787. Patrick Henry declined to attend saying that he “smelt a rat.” As a representative to the Virginia convention, he voted against ratification of the United States Constitution.

Another famous Virginian by the name of George Washington took a different tack. As commander of the Continental Army he would often propose a course of action to his council of war, but then change course based on the urgings of his subordinate officers. He was elected as president of the Constitutional Convention and put his political clout behind the various deals that allowed for the document to come into existence. Under his direction, delegates hammered out several deals such as the three-fifths compromise, the commerce compromise, and the great compromise. Washington wasn’t afraid of wrestling with that pig, and went on to be our first president.

We often view our founding fathers as uncompromising pillars of patriotism that never deviated from their positions in the name of compromise. Nothing could be further from the truth. They were men of great passion that risked their very lives for an idea. They pledged their lives, liberty, and sacred honor to a cause. They never compromised when it came to their love for freedom and the right to self-government, but they were skilled craftsmen with the mortar of compromise. They used the mortar of compromise and the stones of principle to build a constitutional government that has stood the test of time.

I am grateful for the Patrick Henrys of today that will lay down the gauntlet on an issue and rally us to a worthy cause, but I tend to look for someone more moderate and willing to compromise when I vote. I look for someone that mirrors my values and principles, but I also want someone pragmatic and willing to incorporate good working ideas even if they come from the other side of the aisle. I don’t want a rigid, uncompromising robot unable to reach agreements or strike pragmatic deals.

Politics demands compromise. I want someone that isn’t afraid of getting a little dirty by wrestling with that pig, but not someone that likes it.

This entry was posted on Sunday, January 8, 2012 at Sunday, January 08, 2012 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


I tended toward Patrick Henry and Sam Adams until I met someone more uncompromising than me. I thought he was a complete jerk and then realized I am no better. It is always enlightening to have someone push your own bad traits at you.

January 8, 2012 at 9:54 AM

Enjoy all your writing!

February 11, 2012 at 3:06 PM

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