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Standard Deviations: What happened to compromise in politics?

By Mark Saal - | Nov 13, 2016

I kept hearing all this talk about how the world would end if Donald Trump got elected. And then he got elected.

And while the world hasn't ended just yet, I think we can all agree it's still fairly early.

There's actually a solution to our problem, but many of you aren't going to like it. Compromise.

Forget the art of the deal, we could all use a bit more art of the compromise. When exactly did that term become such a dirty word?

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I remember distinctly the first time I heard someone say compromise was no longer an acceptable political option. It was 2012, and the LDS Church had made a push that year to encourage all of its members to participate in their caucus meetings. The church would never say this aloud, but their directive had everything to do with the rise of the Tea Party and incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett's surprising ouster two years earlier in the 2010 Republican state convention.

Bennett was a popular moderate Republican, and among a majority of Utahns he would have easily buried eventual winner Mike Lee. But Bennett never made it out of convention, thanks to the Tea Party folks who packed the Republican delegation.

Bennett's crime? Fraternizing with the enemy. In other words, being willing to compromise to get things done.

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Two years later, when Sen. Orrin Hatch was up for re-election and Tea Partiers made overtones that he wasn't conservative enough for their wingnut tastes, the church basically told its members it was their duty to dilute the power of the small group of ultra-conservatives who'd taken control of the Republican convention.

So in 2012, Mormons flocked to their caucuses. I attended my neighborhood's Republican caucus that year (Relax, it was observer status; I'm still a member of the liberal media), and it was there I saw an exchange that has haunted me ever since.

One woman, a long-time Republican delegate who'd helped dump Bennett and install Tea Party darling Lee, was again vying for a delegation spot at the state convention. Someone in the audience asked for her thoughts on compromise in politics, and I'll never forget the answer.

"We shouldn't be compromising with these people," the delegate wanna-be said. "If my teenage son wanted to bring a six-pack of beer into my house, I wouldn't say, 'Well, I'll tell you what. I'll let you bring in three beers.'"

The thing this woman failed to realize is that it's not just her house. It's my house, too. And yours. What's more, was she seriously comparing Democrats to a pimple-faced teenager with no rights to choose for himself?

That, in a nutshell, is half of our problem in this country. Republicans think of the United States as their house, and that they get to have the final say on whether to allow beer, or comic books, or Muslims, or gays.

The other half of the problem is Democrats thinking it's their crib, and that they get to keep out things like guns and oil pipelines, and if you don't behave, you're sent to your room for being racist or sexist or just plain insensitive.

Of course, I know how both sides will respond to this call for compromise. They'll say you don't get into bed with Hitler. Or better yet, they'll simply point at the opposition and say, "He started it!"

Yeah. That argument never worked for two kids fighting in the back seat of the car, either. Because I would simply respond with a Top 10 answer on the hit parade of parenting phrases: either "I don't care who started it. I'm finishing it," or "Don't make me turn this car around!"

We have serious problems in this country. Problems that need serious solutions. And those solutions won't come through demonizing -- no matter how much we think someone deserves the demon label.

Remember Bob Bennett, the Republican who lost his Senate seat because he was too willing to compromise with his political opponents? Sadly, he lost his battle with cancer this past May 4, at the age of 82. News outlets reported he spent the last days of his life apologizing to Muslims for the extremist rhetoric coming from Donald Trump and the other members of his party, and praising them for their contributions to America.

Indeed, hospitalized near the end, Bennett reportedly asked his son if there were any Muslims in the hospital. He wanted to thank them for living in our country.

That's the kind of man these uncompromising, partisan, small-minded delegates jettisoned for the likes of Mike Lee. And now, you've got Democrats basically acting the same way, vowing in protests to never even consider engaging with the party in power. 

But you know what? The rest of us don't really care who started it.

Oh, and don't make us turn this country around.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SEMarkSaal.


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