Sticking to Principle

It’s a complaint we hear constantly from both ends of the political spectrum: we want to elect people who will “stick to their principles.” We’re tired of the DINOs and RINOs willing to negotiate with the political “enemy,” look for areas of agreement and–most scandalous of all–settle for results that are less than 100% of what “our” side demands.

Look, I get wanting principal. No one wants an elected official without a spine, or worse, a lawmaker willing to “sell out” her true beliefs to placate a big donor, avoid a primary challenge or cave to pressure from a bigoted segment of the party base.

The problem is, not every compromise is a deviation from principle.

There’s a big difference between ideological rigidity and acting in accordance with principle. It’s a difference that’s invisible to the zealots who see every issue as black and white, every encounter with reality and its inevitable complexities, and every effort to find workable accommodations, a betrayal.

Americans used to understand that it’s better to get half of what you want than none at all. We used to understand that legislation is complicated, and not every description of a bill provided in hysterical internet “alerts” by advocacy groups tells the whole story. We used to recognize that legislation goes through a lengthy process, and that what might have begun  as a step in the right direction might no longer be supportable, even by those who agree with the original intent.

Americans used to understand that issues are complicated, and that we are not well-served by people who refuse to admit or understand that.

And we used to understand that a willingness to blow up Congress and shut down the government in order to get what you want (yes, Ted Cruz, I’m looking at you), or a willingness to cause continuing harm to thousands of people by holding up water system repairs in Flint, Michigan because you don’t believe the federal government should be in the business of providing aid to states (yes, Mike Lee, I’m looking at you) is evidence of grandiosity and disregard for the consequences, not principle.

Effective governance and strategic negotiation aren’t as exciting as grandstanding and moralizing, but we used to understand that we are better served by the former than the latter.


  1. Amen Sheila. Problem-solving versus stopping problem-solving — that is the question. Some would rather throw sand and even boulders into the gears of government than solve problems. Thanks for calling out the boulder throwers.

  2. The polarization that has taken place in Congress in the thirty years since I left D.C. disgusts me. The idea that today’s office-seeker can effectively serve the body politic by cleaving to none other than one’s own narrow principles has led to the atmosphere that promotes legislative gridlock, departmental disablement and government shutdown. The GOP announced this plan of action at the start of 2009. If those same individuals are permitted to return to Congress in January, I fear that we will be plagued with eight more years of total disregard for the work of the people.

  3. While some issues need to be resolved through compromise, there are other matters, few in numbers to be sure, that need to be resolved by a leadership standing firmly on principle. Citizens United is one of those issues. A true leader does not go out and speak against such a failed legal ruling and then turn around and use that ruling to raise money for her political campaign. It is that kind of hypocrisy that drives the people into the arms the opposition.

  4. We can equate “sticking to principle” and “compromise” to a working – or not working – marriage. Look at the current divorce rate and compare the failures with the successes which are strong due to sticking to principle combined with the ability to compromise.

    President Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope” was based on his hope that this country could regain the ability of both parties willing to sit at the bargaining table; maintain their individual principles but willing to compromise to resolve issues. Those same issues have reared their ugly heads in recent years but the country is split with no sign of relenting from the controlling Republican Congress. We Democrats have won a few battles but the war rages on.

  5. The word “politics” derives from the Greek for citizen and city. The modern definition describes the “art of governance”. We are so far from that definition in the current climate fed by demagogues and obstructionists who, as Sheila says, consider any deviation from their worldview as a betrayal. Radical, authoritarian nationalism is fascism. Just a generation ago, we fought an enormously deadly and costly war to bring it down.
    We seems to have a very vocal, and bullying group of countrymen and women who think that we made a mistake in defeating those who would rule with an iron fist. They are working hard to restore power to those who will force their worldview on everyone or force them out, gather them into camps for transport, have them identified by their religious affiliation. Sounds frighteningly familiar, doesn’t it?
    The Republican candidates for President are just the tip of the iceberg. Those who control them (or in DT’s case are out of control) have only self-interest as their goal. We have many local and state candidates who are actively working from the same playbook with the same goals. The violence showing up at DT rallies was evident in the last Presidential election cycle but was denounced by the candidates, not encouraged and driven further by the rhetoric we hear every hour of every day on national media.
    Unless we recognize these demagogues for the fascists they are and keep them out of office, we will find ourselves in an authoritarian state with strict rules of exclusion and control, true politics be damned.

  6. “We used to understand” really means, “we used to be smart”… So this blog entry should really be entitled and I quote Fred Sanford: “You Big Dummy!”

  7. Theresa,

    “It is that kind of hypocrisy that drives the people into the arms of the opposition.”

    I totally agree with you on that issue.

    But what about the issue of beating Donald Trump? It’s close. But what is the most important issue? It’s making sure that none of the Republican candidates for the Presidency are elected. And Hillary Clinton is the only Democrat who can do that.

    At this time in our history, all she can do, even if elected, is to try to stem the POPULACE tide toward a catastrophic RELIGIOUS/FASCISM.

    Unfortunately, that’s the sorry state of affairs we’re facing in America today.

  8. Apparently, the American People are finally between a “Rock and a Hard Spot”
    and it all started with Ronald Reagan 35 years ago. However, it would be a much
    deeper problem if over the years the democrats had not shorn up the foundations.
    Clinton leaving a surplus, Obama will exit with a much stabler situation than he
    started with …

    I just hope that he can solve the SCOTUS issue before he leaves.

  9. Marv, It is too early for my decision on who to vote for in the primary. Yes, it looks like Trump will be the republican candidate and Hillary will carry the flag for the democrats. But, maybe not. A lot can happen between now and November. And between now and the conventions, I will stick to my principles and vote my conscience as I hope all Americans will do. If in November, it is Hillary vs. Trump I will vote for the hypocrite and not for the crazy Nazi. But I will not expect anything to change. The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer, the environment will continue to go to hell, and the rest of the world will not love us.

  10. I should add, “and we will not love ourselves, as we traded our principles for expediency.”

  11. If you think you’re trading your principles for expediency to vote for a woman whose life’s work has been dedicated to serving the public good, then I have to really admire your principles, because they must be so lofty that even the angels are envious.

  12. Here’s what democracy is: people choosing diplomats to represent them in government who will put country in front of constituency but will expertly represent both country and constituency in negotiations with others in and out of government and our country.

    Here’s what we’ve culturally devolved to: extremists choosing extremists to represent them in government who will always represent only their interests against country and in and out of government.

    Voters have become would be dictators. Politicians have been taught being dictatorial is the only way to be elected by and represent constituencies.

    Being a dictator is way, way simpler than being a diplomat so the bar for public service has been raised to allow in everybody and anybody.

    Witness last night’s debacle. The lowly promising the dictatorial constituency applauding in the Coliseum to only represent them regardless of country good by calling that principled.

    Dictators and fascists are among the most principled people on earth. They are absolutely rigid in insisting on what’s best for them and them alone.

  13. Theresa,

    I would like to be with you and take the more “ethical” approach. My problem is that I’m from Jacksonville, Florida the most dangerous racist and anti-Semitic city in America. Don’t be fooled by the NFL franchise.

    It’s very much like Munich. Nazism took time for its VIRULENT hatred to spread. It started in the provincial areas like the “Deep South.” Years passed before it hit with devastating force in the urban areas like Berlin.

    New York is in a very analogous position to Berlin. There are over a million Jews living there. They have a multitude of Jewish support groups. Jews are not isolated there. Thus, just like the Jews that were in Berlin, they are very naive as to the spread of anti-Semitism and that includes the national media which, for the most part, is still centered there.

    The situation has been compounded. As I mentioned the other day, the Anti-Defamation League has been covering up the levels of anti-Semitism for over 45 years.

    I’m going with my perception as to the extent of the problem. There are different clusters in America. The level of rascist/fascism varies in all of them. Misperception creates miscalculation. What’s happening in Jacksonville is like “night and day” when compared to New York.

    The national media such as “The New York Times” isn’t in touch with the political reality in America. Back in June of 2008, I attempted to warn in “The Nation Magazine” that Barak Obama would hit an iceberg. That was before the Tea Party was even organized. The New York Times response through one of their editorial writers Frank Rich was that I was “anti-white.”

    Now eight years later, they’re scared to death producing editorials comparing Donald Trump to Mussolini.

    Maybe this will help you better understand the level of my fear that a Donald Trump or Ted Cruz could be our next President. It’s not about Judaism it’s about America. As the German Hermann Rauchning explained: “Anti-Semitism is the destroyer of democracy.”

  14. There’s no difference between being principled and being dictatorial. There’s no difference between being politically correct and being considerate. There’s no difference between raising your right hand and pledging your support to Donal Trump and “Sieg Heil”

  15. Yea do I walk through the valley of the multitudes, with my ears open and my mouth closed and I hear much evil …

    Many of those who currently support “The Donald” may swing between him and “Feel the Bern”. However, to a Man they are adamant about “Not” voting for a Woman.

    Is the Bern, the only logical challenger to the Donald ?

  16. Red George,

    “However, to a MAN they are adamant about “Not” voting for a Woman”

    I’m sure there is a good chance that you are right. But what about the MOTHER of their children. How is SHE going to vote? What about their CHILDREN? Isn’t that a different story?

  17. Compromise or Bipartisan has come to mean to me a sell out. I am reminded of Bill Clinton and other Democrats along with Republicans selling out the American Worker by passing NAFTA and then giving China Permanent Normal Trade Relations. The past few days there have been numerous postings here on Health Care the past few days.
    Max Baucus, was a “Democratic” Senator from Montana he was the Chairman of Senate Finance Committee in 2009. His committee was look into Health Care reform. Baucus would not permit a discussion of Single Payer system. Demonstrators who protested were arrested.

    Baucus said, “single payer was not an option on the table.” Per Wikipedia – From 2003-08, Baucus received $3,973,485 from the health sector, including $852,813 from pharmaceutical companies, $851,141 from health professionals, $784,185 from the insurance industry and $465,750 from HMOs/health services, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    So we end up with Obama Care which certainly must have made Max Baucus Campaign Donors very happy.

    I feel the burning flames of a Political Revolution is necessary. I feel the Bern. No compromise, no more deals with Corporate America we take the hill or go down in flames.

  18. When you leave the comfort of the City of Indianapolis and venture into the
    wilds of the Blue Collar Republicans, the family usually follows the lead of
    The Alpha Male.

  19. Theresa; thank you for our straightforward assessment of the current presidential nominee debacle on the right and a nose-to-nose race on the left. The Bernie/Hillary competition reminds me of the Barack/Hillary competition in 2008; it was often stated that Barack did not have the political qualifications, experience and expertise that Hillary had. But…look who is in the White House. I believe it was Pete who stated a few days ago that; should Hillary be elected, the GOP will simply trade off racism for sexism and we will continue in our current standstill with Congress running the country. Poor us!

    Peggy; your political “love affair” with Hillary show acceptance of the status quo in this country; being owned and operated by corporate America which includes Hillary. No one resents the fact that she made and makes money; some of us do question the sources. Such as being paid $675,000 by Goldman Sachs for three speeches behind closed and locked doors. That IS corporate America at an ultimate level.

  20. I get very uncomfortable when I here about super delegates and how a
    candidate is selected. Let’s face facts, the democratic party lacks a little
    luster, when fielding candidates to square off with the republican’s in
    Indiana. A prime example, the Gregg campaign …

    The Rocket is still on the launch pad

  21. The difference between freedom lovers and fascists is not in what they want, both want what’s best for them personally, but in their attachment to reality or fantasy.

    The reality is that there are 7B people who want what they want and there is progress – the human world is constantly changing and what we individually want is irrelevant to those changes.

    Fascist leaders tell fascist followers that they don’t have to accept reality. They can have all that they want through power – making others give it to them. Of course as soon as the leader get the power what everybody gets is what the dictator wants.

    Freedom is compromise. It’s the opportunity to negotiate and accept what you can get in the context of everyone, not everything you want. It doesn’t take long for freedom lovers to see that win/win is not reality but “we the people” is.

    The me generation created through media advertising has many of us living in a fantasy which reality ignores.

    Hey if you can sell the rubes muscle cars and machine guns to kill themselves with selling them the dream of power is dead simple.

  22. I’m with you Louie…I don’t know if it is really true that Hillary as oppose to Bernie is the only one that can beat the Republicans. I know that is what were saying months and months ago but I have been hearing that there are more moderate Republicans who would vote for Bernie over Hillary. Why? Probably a multitude of reasons but a fair number of them just hate her. They hated her when her husband was running for President. The whole chocolate chip cookie, Tammy Wynette speech….

    I will vote for her if she gets the nomination otherwise I am a Bernie person. I come from middle class barely hanging on where parents couldn’t afford college and we were one disaster from homeless. I also work 20 years in healthcare and have witnessed how a family has been devastated forever by healthcare costs…just one disease or bad diagnosis from homelessness. I have had it with corporate America not being a good citizen to this country.

    The problem I have with Hillary is trust…I don’t trust her, I don’t think she has demonstrated good judgement regardless of how bright she is, and like when McCain ran for office there is this sense that she is ‘owed’ this position….I resented Madeline Albright and her statement of women who don’t support women are going to hell. I would vote for Elizabeth Warren in a hot second.

    Marv has brought up an interesting point that he thinks at least in his area more people hate Jews than Hillary…it is sad that we are looking at who is more electable by who is hated more or less

  23. RN,

    “Marv has brought up an interesting point that he thinks at least in his area more people hate Jews than Hillary.”

    You’re right, I’m talking about my area or “cluster.” But my area has been set up as the PRINCIPAL religious/fascist prototype for 25 years. Because of that fact, Jews have been afraid to move into the heart of Jacksonville for at least that length of time because of the negative feelings toward them. I’ve discussed this with many members of the Jewish community. No one has ever denied the problem. They are scared to confront It just like the African-Americans and LGBT’s. I don’t blame them. The few Jews who are in the area live in the beach communities or in a suburb called Mandarin.

    When the time comes that it’s needed, the racist/fascist prototype can rise up out of nowhere. All the countries in Europe that were taken over by the Nazis operated under the same prototype except for Vichy France.

    Anti-Semitism because of how it’s has been manipulated for decades in the U.S. has the potential of hitting like a Tsunami. It’s had to be kept below the surface because of the knowledge of its lethal use against the Jews during W.W. II. The Italian author, Umberto Eco calls it ur-fascism. He explained, many years ago, that it would have to spread subterranean because of the knowledge of its prior use by the Nazis during W.W. II.

  24. We also used to learn rather young (remember in 5th or 6th grade) how our government worked. What State government looked like, how it was organized, how legislation was created and the complex way it became a law. This was tied to our lessons in state history. We also had a couple of field trips to the State Capitol. We learned the same about National government as we delved more deeply into American history in Junior High and High School. We got engaged in elections and how they worked and followed them in social studies classes.

    What are students learning today? How to be employable to a corporation or a responsible, well-informed citizen?

  25. @Theresa, JoAnn, and Louie

    ~Eleanor Roosevelt

    There are no answers to our problems in the presidential race. In supporting Hillary Clinton, we will be damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Since Bernie Sanders can’t win, we’re going to have to find another venue to make our “last stand.”

    A good example: In 1930, Professor Frederick Wilhelm Foerster appeared before the League of Nations, aided by military intelligence provided through a close friend, and successfully exposed the German military plot to invade Belgium.

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