There is something admirable that we see in those who hold fast to their convictions. Certainly no person should be forced to violate their own morals in their everyday life. And humans are especially supportive when we see others fighting for values that align with our own. But there seems to be some confusion, where many believe that it is only right to be uncompromising, even when their decisions affect many more people. In government, such as with many of our current congressmen, this is not governing. This is bigotry and selfishness, if not just idiocy.
Here is one of history’s classic examples:
In 1650, Scotland had been engaged in a civil war between Royalists who supported the king, and the Covenanters, who went to war fighting to impose their new religion (a kind of Presbyterianism) upon their country as well as England and Ireland. Originally allied with the English Parliament under Cromwell against the Royalists, the alliance broke down when the Covenanters refused to compromise on dictating the governance of the kingdoms (they wanted to force everyone to sign the Covenant and follow their own religious laws) and Cromwell invaded Scotland to stop the Covenant army.
The Covenanters had defeated their Royalist enemies in Scotland largely due to the many experienced soldiers in their ranks who had been mercenaries in previous wars. When confronted by Cromwell’s army at the Battle of Dunbar, however, the religious leaders of the army made what had to be one of the worst decisions in history – they decided to purge the army to assure God’s favor. Mainly, this meant removing all of the veterans who were hardened soldiers that did not follow the Covenant’s morals very seriously. Needless to say, the army was crushed by Cromwell’s smaller and more experienced army.
Regardless of era, and whether speaking in terms of military action or political legislation, the lesson is the same: leaders should not make decisions based on their personal beliefs. Or as the case may be, the beliefs of some minority group they are part of, such as a religious group. Leaders should not decide to martyr their followers, only themselves. Leaders should not decide to block the functioning of government in the name of their personal beliefs, they compromise.
This is the eternal battle in politics between the ideologues and the pragmatists. The absurdity of this is, the ideologues have never done anything good for the country. Only pragmatists accomplish great things.
To see the truth of this look no further than the Founding Fathers, revered by Americans of all ideologies for their unrivaled ability and willingness to compromise. In establishing the independence of the American colonies, great men like John Dickinson (a Quaker) had to put aside their religious beliefs in their decision to fight. Roger Sherman proposed the Connecticut Compromise, which established America’s bicameral legislature, bringing resolution to the disputes between delegates of large and small states who agreed it was better to balance power and serve the country than their own states.
In the spirit of America’s great successes, the 113th Congress is a joke, and is only made a joke by its uncompromising members. The jury is back in on the influence of religious law over American laws, because some fools skipped U.S. History 101 and then got elected. And to sign a pledge to never consider raising taxes under any circumstances is just sheer stupidity, and should be legally penalized. It is for these reasons that people all over the world, who have watched American elections with great hope and admiration, now marvel at the American political circus. This is not reality TV; this is the governance of the world’s largest economy and the country whose president was called for the last half-century the “Leader of the Free World.”
Amazingly, this all can be almost overwhelmingly blamed on one party. In the current political era, the Democratic Party has compromised. This was evident during the presidency of Bill Clinton, who as a centrist negotiated many agreements between members of his own party, such as NAFTA and DOMA; both were highly controversial and nobody loved them, but they were passed and catered to members of all ideologies.
The Republican Party must get its act together if it wants to have a future. Zealots like the hijackers of the Tea Party scream and thump their custom-edited Bibles, and refuse to allow government to continue to exist, while the establishment members cover their faces, too fearful to engage in any of the governing that they originally set out to do.
If radicals want to purge political parties to bring down the government, then there is only one thing that can be done – the centrists must take their party back. Backed by the hopes and dreams of most of the world, it is essential for there to be a counter-purge, removing zealots from leadership. Anyone who inherently does not believe in doing anything for the welfare of the country, such as those who sign pledges refusing to ever consider raising taxes, cannot be allowed to have careers deciding the fate of America.
But then the centrists will prove why they are better.
The purge will not be a witch hunt. They will not publicly execute anyone who does not agree with them. Rather, once the zealots have been subdued, they can be offered a hand and a seat at the table. Today’s radical conservatives have been deluded into thinking that they can hold government hostage by screaming louder and throwing a fit. They must learn to cooperate and work with the centrists. Lincoln accomplished this when he negotiated the passage of the 13th Amendment with the conservative wing of the Republican Party. It is in fact possible to compromise on political ideology – and many of our leaders have forgotten its necessity.
It is important to remember that those with different beliefs in government, religion, and morals are never our enemies. It is how they act on their beliefs. Many of those swept in highly-ideological movements sincerely believe they are doing what would be best because they do not care for the opinions of others. They are ignorant, but not evil. Only those who want to bring down the government, who want to hurt distinct groups of people and abandon their countrymen, can at all be considered evil. That is what the Republican Party must overcome as it sits and rots, and its leaders martyr not just themselves and their party members, but to an extent the ambitions of America and the rest of the world.