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 campaign 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 policy. 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.