Cam­paign­ing and court­ing

The Covington News - - Opinion -

Cam­paign­ing and court­ing have some­thing in com­mon, I’ve de­cided. Both are built on fevered prom­ises made at the height of pas­sion. You know the lingo: “I’ll never (what­ever).” Or: “I’ll al­ways (what­ever).” Or: “I prom­ise (what­ever).” “You can (al­ways) count on me.” “You’ll be my top pri­or­ity (for­ever).” “You’ll (al­ways) come first.” “(Your) wish is my com­mand.” “I will (never) com­pro­mise my pledges to you.” “There will (never) be a day in your life when you will ques­tion my com­mit­ment to you.”

Yeah, right. Prom­ises like that lead us right into the vot­ing booth or right to the al­tar, and we never imag­ine that any­thing will ever al­ter the spo­ken words. In the be­gin­ning of any re­la­tion­ship, the word “com­pro­mise” is never raised. In a pas­sion­ate re­la­tion­ship that’s formed be­tween a can­di­date and the vot­ers, pledges are given and ac­cepted as be­ing set in con­crete. In a re­la­tion­ship be­tween the ro­man­tic pur­suer and the pur­sued, never is thought given to the pos­si­bil­ity that re­al­ity or later data will of­ten force a change in the par­a­digm un­der which the orig­i­nal pledge was made. In other words, stuff hap­pens that can make the ini­tial prom­ise ei­ther im­pos­si­ble or un­pleas­ant or un­pop­u­lar to keep, thereby al­ter­ing what ini­tially seemed an agree­ment made in heaven.

Prom­ises, it is said, are made to be bro­ken, a good rea­son not to make New Year’s res­o­lu­tions, many say.

My fa­vorite ex­am­ple at the mo­ment is the leg­is­la­tion be­ing con­sid­ered in the Ge­or­gia leg­is­la­ture (as of Thurs­day) that would re­quire fees pre­vi­ously adopted for par­tic­u­lar pur­poses to be al­lo­cated only for those pur­poses, in­stead of be­ing raided by bud­get-writ­ers and the gov­er­nor for other uses as the per­ceived need arises. The House passed the leg­is­la­tion — the need for which seems ridicu­lous to me if law­mak­ers had kept their word in the first place. The Se­nate, how­ever, tagged on an amend­ment that would make the mea­sure in­ef­fec­tive un­til the state has more than $1 bil­lion in re­serves, some­thing that’s not likely in the near term. The bill with its amend­ment has been tossed back to the House.

Po­lit­i­cal rhetoric in prac­tice and on the cam- paign trail has reached sur­real sta­tus. Can you be­lieve them if their lips are mov­ing?

These days, com­pro­mise is a dirty word in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles, but it was vi­tally nec­es­sary in the found­ing of this coun­try. We wouldn’t be here with­out it. The U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion is, in fact, de­scribed by some as a “bun­dle of com­pro­mises.” What is called “The Great Com­pro­mise” came about over dis­agree­ment whether the states should have equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the Congress or whether rep­re­sen­ta­tion should be based on pop­u­la­tion. It was de­cided that two, not one, leg­isla­tive bod­ies would be cre­ated, the Se­nate based on equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion be­tween the states and the House makeup to be based on the pop­u­la­tion of each state.

The Elec­toral Col­lege it­self came about as a com­pro­mise re­quired be­tween those who sup­ported pop­u­lar elec­tion of a pres­i­dent and those who felt the pop­u­lace was too uninformed to vote wisely. There­fore, it was de­cided that vot­ers would vote for elec­tors who would vote for the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, in­stead of di­rectly for the can­di­dates. But say the word “com­pro­mise” in to­day’s po­lar­ized cli­mate, and you’ll be booed off the stage. Com­pro­mise is a fact of life, but ap­par­ently not when run­ning for of­fice or try­ing to make pol- icy. Look up “Tea Party” in the dic­tionary, and be­side it you’ll find the word “com­pro­mise” cir­cled in red with a line drawn through it.

On the home front, a re­la­tion­ship won’t be a re­la­tion­ship with­out com­pro­mise on ei­ther the lit­tle things or the big things. De­cid­ing where to eat out is of­ten a com­pro­mise; buy­ing a couch or a car or a house usu­ally in­volves a com­pro­mise be­tween what one part­ner wants and what the other part­ner doesn’t want. Va­ca­tion desti­na­tions are of­ten de­cided on the same ba­sis. When the neat-as-a-pin part­ner dur­ing courtship turns out to be a slob at home, the other part­ner has to de­cide that a lit­tle messi­ness is tol­er­a­ble be­cause there’s a pay­off in other ar­eas. (Gosh, I hope my hus­band agrees.)

Some­times the art of com­pro­mise is sim­ply a mat­ter of keep­ing one’s mouth firmly clamped shut. Not ev­ery­thing has to be a de­bate or a vis­ceral dis­agree­ment. Turn­ing the other cheek is of­ten a ne­ces­sity, so is cast­ing a blind eye on your part­ner’s habits or foibles. That is, if he or she has any. I jest.

Bar­bara Mor­gan is a Cov­ing­ton res­i­dent with a back­ground in news­pa­per jour­nal­ism, state gov­ern­ment and pol­i­tics.

BAR­BARA MOR­GAN

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