Consensus and Compromise

With political silly season in full swing, occasional bits of rhetoric pop up that strike a chord…sometimes good, sometimes bad.

A couple of years back one of the council candidates in that crop took to saying, “I’m a great compromiser.” He was an alright guy, lively and entertaining. His heart was in the right place, and he probably would have done a lot of compromising. But is that a good thing?

A friend pointed out at that time that the self-inflicted label, “compromiser,” was probably not the best political salesmanship. He didn’t get elected.

City Councilman Bob Littlefield is fond of saying, “People ask me why I don’t compromise once in a while. I tried that, and to my opponents it seems to mean that they keep their half and get to have my half, too.”

I always said it’s easy to compromise once in awhile when you win outright the rest of the time.

Another “C” word that has popped up lately is “consensus.” As in, “I’m a consensus builder.”

I never liked that word or the concept it represents. I always thought of it as sort of a euphemism for failure of principle.

Ironically, I saw three quotes on consensus recently:

Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.

Michael Crichton

A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually.

Abba Eban

A consensus politician is someone who does something that he doesn’t believe is right because it keeps people quiet when he does it.

John Major

“Civil Dialog” is a related “C” term. But I won’t beat that dead horse any further than I already have in earlier articles, except to say that like with compromise, it’s a lot easier to be civil if you win all the time.

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