Compromise isn't pretty -- but it's the way politics works

From the Middle East to the Ivy League, the practice of politics is about striking a balance between principle and practicality.

AP Photo/Jim Cole
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, jokes with some old friends over the weekend at a Bartlett, N.H., political gathering.

Politics involves tradeoffs between principle and practicality. You can see evidence of that today in news stories from all over the world.

In Libya, the principle that regime opponents are fighting for is democracy. But Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi has enough firepower that it may be necessary to arrange a compromise -- however distasteful it may seem -- to spare Libya from civil war.

Next-door in Egypt, protesters who ousted Hosni Mubarak are not content to return to business as usual (the practical approach) without making sure that the security police and other elements the old regime don't reemerge. Much as Egyptians need to be resuming normal life -- sending their children to school, working at their jobs, welcoming tourists to the nation's storied antiquities -- opposition leaders are wary of allowing the old power structure to reassert itself.

Now let's look at the US: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is maneuvering for the 2012 Republican nomination. Mr. Romney -- who made millions with Bain Capital and won plaudits for managing the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City -- worked with a Democrat-controlled legislature in the Bay State to enact a groundbreaking, 2006 health-reform law. The compromises he made may hurt him with the GOP faithful, who in 2011 are strongly opposed to "ObamaCare."

One more example: The end of "don't ask, don't tell" in the US military has opened the door to restoration of ROTC programs that were banned because of what was seen as a discriminatory policy towards gays, as this report notes.

Depending on where you stand on any particular issue, you may feel that principle has been sacrificed. Compromise is crucial in politics, but it seldom satisfies everyone. Politics involves tradeoffs between principle and practicality.

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