Compromise — a word they teach you when you’re still a child. You give a little, others give a little, and everyone can end up happy.
At least that’s the picture they paint the first time.
As you grow, you learn that compromise means a little more than that. After all, we all know the saying, “A good compromise leaves everyone unhappy.” While not always true, it is a common side effect. When you give up something you want, you end up being unsatisfied.
I’ve noticed recently the political atmosphere in our nation has moved away from compromise. Compromise has been turned into a monster by extremists on both sides of America’s political sphere. These extremists all shout that compromising would mean lowering your standards, and they demonize even the thought of the give and take.
Anyone trying to get elected has become terrified of these people, and officials make moves in their newly elected positions with this fear in mind. If I compromise, they think, my constituents will hate me, and there’s no way I’ll be reelected.
And that’s scary. Every senior in high school takes a government class and learns about the five basic concepts our government was founded on. Without them our government will slowly fall apart and cease to function. And one of these concepts is compromise.
People who insist they are more right than anyone else and refuse to have their electee compromise grind our government to a halt. The Founding Fathers intentionally made passing and revoking laws extremely difficult. When one or both sides are no longer willing to agree on anything, it becomes impossible.
The debt crisis and the fiscal cliff are prime examples of this. Congress barely made a decision in time to avoid the fiscal cliff, which they created when they decided they needed more time to solve the debt crisis. No truly hard decisions are being made in politics, and that is partially due to the lack of compromise.
When we neared the fiscal cliff this time, the Republicans — unlike during the debt crisis, when they were inherently difficult to persuade — stepped up and were willing to take President Barack Obama’s original bill. But Obama had just been reelected and he now declared that the compromise was no longer good enough for him.
Forget the fact that the popular vote was not completely in Obama’s favor, because he won the Electoral College — a useful thing for elections, not so much for the general opinion of America — he believed he had the right to ask for more compromise on the Republicans’ side and less from the Democrats. Because the president wasn’t willing to accept what he had once offered we came perilously close to the fiscal cliff.
Both of these situations were mishandled by everyone’s inability to compromise. When a senator gets up on a podium for a newscast, he should never be shouting that he “will not compromise.” And we as constituents should certainly never applaud a senator for doing so. It’s like applauding a janitor who has decided he or she will not clean the bathrooms. It’s miserable and not fun but it’s an exceedingly necessary part of the janitor’s job to do that.
And it’s not just Congress’ fault that we have come to this point. This country has terrified the people they are electing by showing complete outrage when the officials actually do their job. Utah’s Bob Bennett lost his seat in the U.S. Senate for compromising.
The American people need to take a stand and tell their senator or representative to do the hard thing — compromise.
It’s no longer acceptable for elected officials to be scared of compromise. As Congress’ approval ratings drop, we the people need to do our part to change what politicians are doing. Accepting the fact that we don’t always get what we want, or what we approve of, is a part of what we have to do.
Katey Campbell is a senior at Fremont High School. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.