Is ‘Compromise’ a Lost Art?
Last week, about seven million students faced a sharp increase in their student loans. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of workers and motorists wondered whether their states would run out of highway funding. Both of their fears would come true, unless the 112th Congress, the lowest-rated in decades, could cut through overwhelming gridlock to reach a compromise.
Rather than taking on these tough issues, Congress opted to spend hours debating the definition of a catfish. Fortunately, the parties compromised on both issues before the deadline leading to a collective sigh of relief so strong it actually created a cool breeze; another seemingly impossible event amidst record-breaking heat in the nation’s capital.
Days later, the word ‘compromise’ reverberated at the Brookings Institution, as Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) addressed a receptive audience about his attempts to restore fiscal integrity and accountability in New Jersey. His efforts lead to his passing of three consecutive balanced budgets with a Democratic legislature. Christie said that this model could be useful to federal politicians looking to make the difficult choices that are necessary to get the economy back on track.
Christie also shared his insights about leadership, which may be of greater use to young people aspiring to change today’s culture of division than Christie’s trumpeting of his own economic feats.
Objecting to the metaphor of compromise as a narrow road, he instead encouraged people to think of a “boulevard of compromise.” He argued that the widespread belief that compromise is unattainable in Washington is an illusion, used by our so-called “leaders” as an excuse for not being able to handle the job they signed up for.
Christie admitted that winning compromise can be a battle. However, he expressed surprise that a politician would expect decisions about budget cuts or other controversial issues to be popular or easy. He appeared comfortable with confronting divisive issues and willing to sit down at the table with those that disagree with him politically.
He encouraged people to realize that the current state of Congress does not have to become the norm, but for change to occur, however, politicians must earn back the trust of the people that put them in office.
This can only be accomplished with real leadership. Even if you disagree with the sacrifices Christie has forced on New Jerseyans, his message about negotiation rings true. A leader’s legacy is not defined by charming smiles or empty phrases. “A leader is not someone who whistles a happy tune at the front of the parade.” A real leader is balanced. “They show that they stand for their principles but are willing to compromise where appropriate.”
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Corey Goldstone is a Syracuse Orangeman, braving the harsh winters to study American Political Science with a Concentration in Public Policy and the Legal System. He has volunteered for a local Obama reelection movement, interned for the Federal Affairs office of CSX, and worked for New York State constituents at Senator Charles Schumer’s CNY Office. His interest is in exposing the roadblocks to democracy that prevent everyday citizens from accessing electoral politics.