Magazine article The Christian Century

Is Compromise Always Good?

Magazine article The Christian Century

Is Compromise Always Good?

Article excerpt

At the national level, there was only one real question going into the November 4 elections: Would the Democrats keep the Senate? They didn't. For the next two years, it's essentially President Obama against Congress. The Senate minority party does have considerable power, and the remaining Democrats may manage to keep some Republican legislation off the president's desk. But Obama will almost certainly have to do more of something the Senate has until now protected him from: choose between signing Republican bills and vetoing them.

Would compromise be better than gridlock? It sounds like an easy question. We want our elected officials to actually accomplish something. As Christians we are keenly aware of the importance of coming together for the greater good. Amid deep division, the alternative to compromise--inaction--seems like outright failure.

The problem is the assumption that a compromise position is an improvement on the status quo. This isn't always the case.

To be sure, it often is. Getting the Affordable Care Act passed required the bill to be watered down, convoluted, and larded with perks for the very industries that have helped make U.S. health care such a mess. Yet the 2010 law was a clear step forward, enabling millions of uninsured Americans to get coverage. Or take our broken immigration system. A compromise bill that includes even incremental steps toward a path to citizenship would directly improve the lives of families living in this country. Middle-ground bills can be good ones. …

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