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The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It Hardcover – April 22, 2012
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One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013
Provide[s] grist for thinking through the difficulties of compromise in [domestic policy], from tragic choices at desperate moments of history to the routine nastiness in American public life today. . . . Until recently, who would have thought it necessary to offer Americans advice in the ways of compromise? We used to enjoy a reputation for being a practical-minded people, our politicians being regarded as an all-too-flexible species. But something has changed, and according to Gutmann and Thompson, the change has to do with the relation of campaigning and governing. . . . Gutmann and Thompson end their book with recommendations to strengthen the spirit and practice of compromise.---Paul Starr, The New Republic
Gutmann and Thompson articulately identify the conundrum that has made compromise unlikely, if not impossible, in Washington.---Alexander Heffner, Philadelphia Inquirer
Scholars will appreciate the authors' lucid analysis of the dynamics of political compromise. (Library Journal)
'Compromise is difficult, but governing a democracy without compromise is impossible.' So begins this excellent, much needed corrective to the contemporary political scene, which eschews compromise in politics in favor of war analogies. . . . This excellent book should be required reading for every member of Congress, and deserves a wide readership among the voting public. (Choice)
Astute and timely account. . . . [P]owerful analysis.---Russell Muirhead, Tulsa Law Review
"In this 'no excuses' look at Washington gridlock, Gutmann and Thompson offer a clear-eyed examination of the forces that bring warring political leaders together or keep them apart. Far from a Pollyanna-like plea for compromise above all, this book uses fascinating historical and recent examples, and analysis, to expose the sources of dysfunction and to argue for how they can be overcome. I wish every policymaker would read it!"―Judy Woodruff, PBS NewsHour
"In an era of partisan polarization, congressional gridlock, and plunging public trust in government, this book could not be more timely. Deftly weaving together political theory and practical politics, Gutmann and Thompson trace the contours of necessary and honorable compromise, and propose reforms that would make it more likely."―William Galston, Brookings Institution
"Americans tend to think that compromise is opposed to principle, and that there is therefore something dishonorable about it. In this marvelous book, two of our leading theorists of democracy defend the opposite view. Our democracy works only with mutual respect among those who disagree and requires the principled prudence that produces successful compromise. In a world of partisan gridlock and the politics of division, The Spirit of Compromise is a sane voice calling us to a better alternative."―Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers
"America now finds itself the bound prisoner of congressional gridlock. We all honestly know what we must do, but just cannot find the common purpose to do what is obviously necessary to pull the country on the road back to financial well-being and long-term prosperity. In this book, two eminent political scientists show us just why compromise seems more elusive than ever―and yet more importantly―what we can do about it. Oh, one would surely hope that those who cherish the legislative craft will read and heed this book's timely message!"―Alan K. Simpson, U.S. Senator, Wyo. (Retired)
From the Inside Flap
"In this 'no excuses' look at Washington gridlock, Gutmann and Thompson offer a clear-eyed examination of the forces that bring warring political leaders together or keep them apart. Far from a Pollyanna-like plea for compromise above all, this book uses fascinating historical and recent examples, and analysis, to expose the sources of dysfunction and to argue for how they can be overcome. I wish every policymaker would read it!"--Judy Woodruff, PBS NewsHour
"In an era of partisan polarization, congressional gridlock, and plunging public trust in government, this book could not be more timely. Deftly weaving together political theory and practical politics, Gutmann and Thompson trace the contours of necessary and honorable compromise, and propose reforms that would make it more likely."--William Galston, Brookings Institution
"Americans tend to think that compromise is opposed to principle, and that there is therefore something dishonorable about it. In this marvelous book, two of our leading theorists of democracy defend the opposite view. Our democracy works only with mutual respect among those who disagree and requires the principled prudence that produces successful compromise. In a world of partisan gridlock and the politics of division,The Spirit of Compromise is a sane voice calling us to a better alternative."--Kwame Anthony Appiah, author ofCosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers
"America now finds itself the bound prisoner of congressional gridlock. We all honestly know what we must do, but just cannot find the common purpose to do what is obviously necessary to pull the country on the road back to financial well-being and long-term prosperity. In this book, two eminent political scientists show us just why compromise seems more elusive than ever--and yet more importantly--what we can do about it. Oh, one would surely hope that those who cherish the legislative craft will read and heed this book's timely message!"--Alan K. Simpson, U.S. Senator, Wyo. (Retired)
"Gutmann and Thompson have written an incisive and engaging analysis--with many contemporary examples--of why compromise is necessary in democratic politics and why it is increasingly difficult in our democracy. Watching our politicians at work, I can't imagine a more timely book."--Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study
"Gutmann and Thompson rely on both theory and history to show why compromise is essential to good governing. They provide a perceptive analysis of the tensions between campaigning and governing in contemporary democracies, especially the United States. Their account is thought-provoking and timely."--Nannerl O. Keohane, author of Thinking about Leadership
"The Spirit of Compromise advances an urgent and illuminating argument about the essential place of compromise in democratic politics. It offers an incisive account of the predicament of American politics today and shows how, in spite of real disagreements, political leaders might come together for the sake of the common good."--Russell Muirhead, Dartmouth College
"As one would expect from Gutmann and Thompson, The Spirit of Compromise thoughtfully and effectively blends theory with real-life examples to underscore a larger important thesis: the political process of compromise matters."--Norman J. Ornstein, coauthor of The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track
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But I did not absolutely love this book.
I had to read it as a part of my political science class, as a part of the topic of compromise in politics, and its importance. I have to say, Gutmann does a great job analyzing the history of political compromise. But I feel she was WAY too idealistic. The way she builds her arguments makes it sound like everything will just work and go along well if everyone works together. Which may be the case in some instances, but is not the case in many. She also gives ways we can fix our compromise problems, each of them being unachievable in our society. These are things like amendments, bills, things that would just never happen or never pass. She is way too idealistic in a world where things just dont happen as they should. Like I said, I love Amy, but I didnt love her arguments here.
Gutmann and Thompson in THE SPIRIT OF COMPROMISE clearly and succinctly explain that the uncompromising mindset--while necessary for campaigning and protesting--does not lead to good governance. For that, one needs a compromising mindset. This book, filled with concrete examples from both parties, tells us why compromise is vital to governing, what causes some legislators to refuse to compromise, and how we voters, as well as the media, can effect change.
We can vote for candidates who in deliberations treat opponents with civility, study issues from all sides, and when necessary, compromise. The end result is that the status quo of important issues--health care, economy,immigration--is improved for all of us.
By the way, every member of Congress and the Virginia General Assembly should study and talk about this very readable, powerful red, white and blue book.
The following are notes from this book for Political Science student
Compromise has been an element of politics through the present. The recent financial crisis and avoiding default issues (circa 2012) required compromises when forging agreements within Congress and between Congress and the President. While it is often difficult to arrive at compromises, it is more difficult to enact new lasts most any other way.
The political process is changing in a manner that makes achieving compromises more difficult. The increasing costs of political campaign creates more focus on political fund raising and less attention upon political duties. Further, the increased reliance on campaign contributions from outsiders grants increase political attention to these outsiders. It is often more difficult to address the concerns of political supporters and then compromise on their views. An abandonments from their positions could led to their contributions switching to future political opponents.
Compromise is achieved when governing officials realize that compromise is more desirable than the alternatives. Compromise is achieved once enough official recognize this such that a compromise is achieved and new policy created.
The increased, almost perpetual political campaign process holds candidates and then elected officials to accepting the views of their constituencies that elected them. These constituencies generally do not demand compromise. They usually seek specific goals and desire them without compromise. Compromise may not satisfy those advocating for their political priorities.
Recently enacted legislation still finds compromise occurs where no side gets all they seek. “Classic compromise” involves reaching agreement for a common good where each side gains something. In more polarized political circumstance, compromise may require “shared sacrifice”, which is usually harder to achieve compared to “classic compromise”. It is accomplished once it is recognized that a problem requires solutions justifying the sacrifices.
Mary Parker Follett wrote of “problem solving” or “win win” solutions where both sides can divide something such that both sides benefit. It may not necessarily be an equal split yet could be a distribution where each gets components of the distribution more beneficial to each side.
If compromise fails to be reached, the legislative process usually then slows. The failure to achieve compromise can stall the progress of resolving problems facing legislative bodies.
The Tea Party is an example of a political movement that actively argues against political compromises.
Compromise is a long held political standard. The creation of Congress itself was a compromise between states’ powers (leading to the creation of a Senate where each state received two Senators) and popular power (in creating a Congress based mostly upon population).
There can be a cognitive bias against compromise when one is in a political mindset that avoids seeking compromise. On some issues, people place a high priority on principles and refuse to compromise their principles. Some scholars observe compromises are reached more on issues involving interests than upon principles. Compromise involving principles generally occur only when a part of principle is forgone to achieve the compromise.
Mutual mistrust can make is difficult to for parties to achieve compromise.
Former Senator Alan Simpson declared “If you can’t lean to compromise on an issue without compromising yourself, then you shouldn’t be a legislator.” Grover Norquist, on the other hand, seeks to commit legislators to prior agreements to not compromise on issues such as raising taxes.
“Principled prudence” is the recognition that compromise is necessary component of achieving legislative enactments. A compromise occurs when it is seen as better than the status quo. Principled prudence often allows those who do not wish to compromise to have political cover for approving compromise.
John Stuart Mill believed compromises occur when they embody a component of each party’s principles.
When the failure to achieve a compromise creates public harm, the need to compromise may become a moral imperative.
A compromise should include mutual respect for each party involved in the compromise. Compromises may be achieved more easily when parties lessen their focus on their differences and focus more on where they agree. Sometimes separating several issues or introducing new issues may allow parties to obtain a goal on an important issue in return for dropping opposition on another issue. During negotiations on achieving compromises, parties should reduce their rhetoric and avoid aggravating explosive issues.
It is important to note that tactics such by a majority caucus could later be used in retaliation against them when they become the minority caucus. Compromise occurs more often when parties agree not to hold grudges for past actions and to end a cycle of retaliation.
In the 1950s, an American Political Science Association committee faulted the two major political parties for not having enough differentiation between the two parties. In the 2010s, there are far sharper differences between the Democratic and Republican Parties. The increased time spent campaigning, which makes politicians less prone to compromise, and the sharper differences make compromise more difficult.
Democracies with more than two competitive political parties generally find a greater need to compromise in order to avoid political gridlock.
When legislators personally know each other better, it makes it easier for them to discuss and reach compromise. The extended campaign season requires legislators to spend more time in their district seeking reelection and less time developing contacts and friendships with other legislators.
“If politics is the art of the possible, then compromise is the artistry of democracy” the authors conclude. Greater public awareness of the political process and the need for compromise will better allow politicians to achieve compromises.
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My son had to read this book as summer assignment for senior year. He enjoys reading books of vary subjects but reading this book was not fun.Read more