Do you see truth as a moving target or an absolute? Most political arguments, if developed fully, come down to this question.
‘Compromise’ for its own sake sounds like a higher moral value, and we seem to hold it up as an example of civility and progress, but if evil is evil, and good is good, then isn’t a dilution of “good” for the sake of compromise, actually not a high moral value at all?
Those on the left are quick to point out that there are “zealots” on both sides. This is probably accurate, but assigning zealotry itself as the “evil”, rather than the cause for which the zeal is aroused, is an error. To some degree, it depends on how we define zealotry. If “zealotry” means uncompromising, unyielding filial attachment to a cause or position, that can be considered by some as unreasoning rigidity and they will ascribe to it a lack of virtue. This is an all too hasty presumption, Barry Goldwater famously stated,
I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
If the extremism/zealotry takes the form of murdering innocents (as in for example, blowing up abortion clinics), then in fact, individuals must be held accountable for breaking the law. It’s not zealotry that committed the crime, it’s people. The fact that someone ascribes a virtue to an evil, is not acceptable, or in any way to be accommodated, no matter the cause. The cause, however, is not diminished by the evil perpetrated in its name, without permission, or authority. When John Brown slaughtered innocents and committed terrorism for the cause of abolition, he was no less guilty, even though the cause was no less noble (at least in his mind and the minds of a great many others). Was his extremism to blame, or his choices? Was Frederick Douglass any less of an “extremist” about slavery? No. But his choices were better. As are those who are pro-life (and uncompromising) but don’t murder doctors.
Many bemoan the lack of a “middle ground”, but on some issues, there shouldn’t be a middle ground, lest we wind up with some degree of evil. Evil diluted is not a better choice than no evil at all. Counting a black as 3/5 of a person (for voting purposes) was a compromise to get the Constitution ratified. The 600,000 deaths, 80 years later, necessary to eradicate slavery, was a testament to the point that compromise seldom resolves evil.
People will always be extreme on both sides of the spectrum, at any given time, and on any given issue. We will always be able to find examples of foolishness. Fools are in no short supply. But there is an essential difference between the random actions of a few fools, and the steadfast and deliberate imposition of punitive consequences for an opinion or viewpoint deemed as “socially irresponsible” or “dangerous” by those who maintain the opposite. No one has lost their job or gone to jail (unless they committed a crime) for questioning the war in Iraq. However, people have lost jobs and been penalized by the government for words deemed politically incorrect by the self-proclaimed keepers of justice on the left.
In our popular mythology, the culture has made bugaboos of conservatives, giving them toothless grins, and red necks. It’s sophomoric and not terrifically helpful, if we are interested in solving problems, but it’s great if you just want to ridicule your enemy so that he doesn’t get any traction with his ideas (or threaten the elitist power base.)
If it ever was, the concept of preserving the “status quo” is no longer a defining feature of conservatism. This is why the Tea Party is getting such traction. They are demanding new ideas, at least ideas new to Washington in the last 40 years. Keynesian economics, the public education system strangled by union power and politics, and the entitlement system, have all been objectively disproven and/or discredited both here and abroad. These are hardly conservative creations. Yet the response from politicians is to “double down” on failure, instead of considering new ideas, such as entitlement reform, or perhaps charter schools, warred against by the NEA (and vetoed in DC in spite of overwhelming support from the black families who live there).
The Left, the elitists, and those in the Republican party who “go along to get along” are all unwilling or unable to disconnect politics and their self-preservation from problem solving. They are the ones who are about preserving ideology (or power) at the expense of moving in an effective direction. It is they who seek to maintain the status quo. All they have to offer is the same old recycled, failed ideas, and they can’t understand why increasing numbers of people are saying “no”. Saying no to something that doesn’t work is not something to be reviled as failure to compromise.