I know, I know. I’ve talked about this again and again. But I will keep talking about it until someone listens to me. Or lots of someones. Preferably lots of someones. Because, according to a new poll, this subject is lost on the majority of the population.
The headline is what grabbed my attention first: “Americans Want Their Leaders To Stand And Fight.” I thought to myself “Well, duh. Who wants a leader who’s afraid of a fight?” So I read on and, as I read, I became steadily more disturbed. It turns out that what the author was talking about was a poll that found that 49% (49%!!) of Americans want a political leader who “sticks to their positions without compromise.”
Almost a majority of all Americans want a political leader who is unwilling to compromise. Almost a majority of Americans want elected officials to, essentially, not do anything if others don’t agree with them. Almost a majority of Americans want elected officials to throw tantrums when they don’t get their way rather than work constructively to fix it.
And don’t think that 51% of Americans are on the other side of this fence (that is want a political leader who will “make compromises with someone they disagree with”). No no no no. That would make sense. Only 42% of Americans want this kind of political leader. The remaining 9%? They “don’t know.”
Ignoring the respondents who didn’t know if they would want a leader willing to compromise, let’s focus on the ones that would prefer a political leader who was more willing to throw tantrums than compromise. (Ok, yes, I know that’s not what the survey says but what else is that political leader to do when confronted with the inevitable situation where someone doesn’t agree with them?)
When broken down by political affiliation, both a majority of Republicans (62%) and Independents (53%) favored non-compromising political leaders. Only self-identified Democrats (54%) sided with compromisers. Which, if you think about, explains so much about the problems that Democrats traditionally have with appearing to be strong leaders.
It’s so easy to not compromise. There are so many purely political upsides. It’s easier to boil down what you believe in; it’s easier to paint things in black and white and people as for or against something; it’s easier to communicate your position in 30 seconds or less. These are all things that are gold in today’s political arena.
However, it’s not easy to govern effectively without compromise. It’s not easy to achieve broad-based solutions that are more likely to work. It’s not easy to achieve any kind of consensus. It’s not easy to understand viewpoints different from yours. It’s not easy to work within a world colored with diversity.
Guess which one of those two scenarios most closely resembles the world in which we live? No wonder things are so screwed up.