UPDATE July 24: Moments after President Obama appealed to Americans to contact their representative in Congress to let them know “compromise is not a dirty word,” the House of Reps web site crashed. (https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml)
Keeping tabs on the faltering debt crisis talks this week, two things came to mind.
Remember the old TV commercial?
Two guys trip over each other.
“Hey, you got peanut butter on my chocolate.”
“You got chocolate on my peanut butter.”
Each then samples the unwitting combination and discovers it kinda works.
The Great Compromiser
Historians remember statesman Henry Clay as the Great Compromiser. Elected in 1811 as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Clay transformed the position into the most influential in government second only to the President. A one-man version of the current Gang of Six, Clay fostered deal after deal through compromise, giving one side a little something, the other side a little something. Both didn’t get everything they wanted, but they got a workable blend, an, “Okay. We’ll give your idea a shot.”
Clay’s approach now days may seem like kicking the can down the road, but the brokered deals moved the can, and issues eventually evolved, or more accurately, the electorate and the elected evolved. If you read about Clay, most likely you’ll cringe at some of his political views, but you have to hand it to him. He didn’t dig in, or walk away from his opponents. He got things done, or at the least, he got things moving.
My rather simple, utopian example
I want to pour a bucket of water around a thirsty tree, but my neighbor insists we save water. We compromise. Give the tree a half bucket, and see what happens. If leaves start dropping, we’ll up the water. Maybe we’ll discover the tree doesn’t need as much water to make it. Maybe we can use the saved water for other trees, or a hot tub. Maybe with more water the fruit on the tree is sweeter and we decide it’s worth the extra expense.
But to stand around and argue while the tree starves?
Like the happy accident with the chocolate and peanut butter, we may learn a blend of spending cuts and tax hikes kind of works, and what doesn’t work, get rid of it and try something else.
In the darkest days of the Great Depression, FDR told Congress, “We can try something and fail, but try something.”
And who knows, maybe we’ll discover things we didn’t think would go together, kinda work, like chocolate and peanut butter, like tuna and avocado, like RC Cola and Moon-pies(It’s a Southern thing.)