Updated: Nov 26, 2021
If you were visiting from almost anywhere, you would want to know why we have over 154,000 coronavirus deaths.
One answer is the lack of leadership. Not just Trump, but also some governors and mayors, who place their personal ambition ahead of the lives of others. The more fundamental question, however, is not why these elected officials do not protect their constituents, but rather why do we let them get away with it.
I think the answer is that we would rather compromise than destroy. We allow terrible things, because stopping them would, we fear, destroy our institutions, social order and American prosperity. This is an old pattern, beginning with the Compromise of 1778 when the Northern and Southern states agreed to count enslaved people as 3/5th of a person so the slave states would join the Union.
After the period of reconstruction, the “white compromise” of 1878 allowed whites to “redeem” the South and to control the North until the 1960s. The pattern was then suspended, but not replaced, and it appears to have gained control again with Trump in the White House.
Trump’s regime has committed crimes against humanity. How else can one interpret our government’s treatment of families at our Southern border? He is responsible for the death of thousands because of his mishandling of the pandemic. Still, as we come closer to the national election, we treat him as though he were a legitimate President. As Nancy Pelosi has suggested, we don’t need to respect the person, but we should respect the office. So, the political parties, in spite of the pandemic, have scheduled presidential debates as though things were quite ordinary.
There are those, in Portland and elsewhere, who have rejected this pattern of compromise. “If our compromises have prevented us from standing up for the truth, then stop compromising.” The fact is that the truth itself is complicated, and we usually get to more of the whole truth through compromise than through single-mindedness. Still, there are compromises that promote justice and compromises that promote injustice. We need to know the difference.
In the 2000 election, Al Gore compromised by agreeing not to insist on a recount of the vote in Florida because it would have disrupted the electoral process. So, we got George Bush, the invasion of Iraq, and a war that continues. Yes, it’s complicated, but avoiding the complexity makes for unjust compromises.
When compromises cover up complexities, they are probably mistakes. When complexities are analyzed and discussed, then some compromise may result. It’s an imperfect world. Nothing is more complicated than the upcoming election. We should not cover up the truth for the sake of maintaining the appearance of civility.
I could see the democratic party refusing to have television debates with Trump because he does not deserve the recognition that would entail. Such a stance might also honor the men and women who would still be alive if he had done his job.