Compromise and Bipartisanship

The open letter written to Senator Lamar Alexander by an assembly of Tea Party and other groups has drawn particular attention for this quote:

"Unfortunately, our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous. America faces serious challenges and needs policymakers who will defend conservative values, not work with those who are actively undermining those values."

The names of the groups who signed the letter include the terms "Tea Party," "Patriots," "Liberty," and "Freedom." The groups themselves often harken back to Founders and to America at the time of the Revolution.

It would be helpful, then, to look back at what the Founders actually said about compromise.

In Fitting Together Uneven Planks: The Constitution And The Spirit of Compromise,an article written for the National Constitution Center, the Founders are quoted as saying:

  • "For myself, I was ready to have embraced any tolerable compromise that was competent to save us from impending ruin." - George Washington
  • John Adams described it as "the result of accommodation and compromise" "admirably calculated to cement all America in affection and interest, as one great nation."
  • Thomas Jefferson said "I am captivated by the compromise of the opposite claims of the great and little states, of the latter to equal, and the former to proportional influence."

The article is well worth the read, because it makes clear that our nation, and our founding documents, were created through the very spirit of compromise. Those who try to claim the mantle and legitimacy of the Founders have a long way to go before they can prove themselves worthy. It takes more than a tricorner hat to be a patriot.


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