I’m seeing a growing emphasis on ‘compromise’ as a conceptual anchor in writing about political action. No longer just a word that’s used casually, it’s a word that carries weight. Personally, I wonder if it’s gaining ground because it doesn’t try to fight partisan, polarized, contentious politics, but instead tries to figure out to make partisanship a more constructive force. (Perhaps it goes hand in hand with a cultural rejection of “niceness”?)
But in contrast to the lovely word [peace] that demands nothing of the person saying it, the word “compromise” insists on the same preconditions from all those who use it: They must first agree to concessions, maybe even more — they must be willing to accept the assumption that beyond the just and absolute truth they believe in, another truth may exist. And in the racist and violent part of the world I live in, that’s nothing to scoff at.
Our defense of compromise in democratic governance is consistent with—indeed requires—a vigorous and often contentious politics in which citizens press strongly held principles and mobilize in support of boldly proclaimed causes. Social movements, political demonstrations, and activist organizations are among the significant sites of this kind of politics. The citizens who participate in these activities play important roles in democratic politics. But their efforts would be in vain if the democratic process of governance did not produce public benefits that citizens seek and protect rights that they cherish. The success of democratic politics ultimately depends on how our elected leaders govern—and therefore inevitably on their attitudes toward compromise.
The compromise anticipates that the loser or his designee would become “chief executive” for the government, with powers to be settled later. This is intended to assure the loser and his supporters that they will have a meaningful role in the political system. The candidates are also said to have agreed to take the threat of violence off the table and to pursue a reform agenda.