, Newburyport, MA


May 8, 2013

What does 'compromise' really mean?

Well, it’s official now: “Compromise” is the new buzzword for resolving the Newburyport’s central waterfront.

The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority presented its plan for private development in this public space, then the Committee for an Open Waterfront presented its concept plan for all park and no development, and now everyone is talking about a compromise between the two visions.

Talk began immediately after COW’s presentation, when the NRA treasurer was quoted mentioning the possibility of compromise. A Daily News editorial a couple days later tried to present a balanced view of both sides and called for compromise. And today as I write, Mayor Holaday announces she is running for a third term and says about the waterfront, well, you guessed it — she’s hoping everyone works together for “some kind of compromise.”

“Compromise” is to politics what “the flag, Mom and apple pie” are to patriotism. You can’t argue against the idea of compromise any more than you can question the flag — but you have to look behind it. Plenty of hate groups have wrapped themselves in the flag, for example, and plenty of sly politicos have tried to hide behind “compromise.”

So, what’s wrong with compromise?

First, compromise does work well when two parties agree on something but differ in some important way. Should we give a cost-of-living raise of 3 percent to Social Security recipients, or should it be 5 percent? After careful analysis and reasoning, a 4 percent compromise may result, and even if that disappoints one side, it might be fair if all information were openly considered.

On the other hand, consider truly opposing views: One side wants to end Social Security entirely, and the other side wants to preserve it. Hey, let’s compromise! Senior citizens living west of the Mississippi get Social Security, and those living east don’t. Compromise! Apple pie for half of us!

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