The author Amos Oz, who died late last year, once said a failure to accept unhappy compromise leads to life inside a doomed state.
Born in Jerusalem, Oz advocated for dialogue and rapprochement in the implacable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the end, he was viewed as an almost quaint, throwback figure whose voice of moderation was drowned out by those with more extreme views.
These days, his is a voice very much needed, and not just in the context of Mideast peace.
Closer to home, compromise is a lost art, a dirty word to some, in everything from farm legislation, to border walls, to the choice for drawing the boundaries of legislative districts. There are some who remain willing to reach across the aisle, but they, too, seem drowned out by Facebook memes and shouting pundits.
One politician who will be missed is U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican who plans to retire after nearly four decades in Washington. One of his final accomplishments, getting a five-year Farm Bill through Congress, drew backlash because Roberts worked with a Democratic colleague to strike a deal over food stamps.
Think about that. Roberts gets criticized for delivering a legislation that establishes stability in farm policy for the next five years. On the border wall debate, President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi win praise for digging in at the expense of 800,000 federal employees.
Maybe Roberts knows a little bit more about the art of the deal than he’s let on. His record shows that being a career politician isn’t such as bad thing, if it means getting things done and making everybody a little unhappy, as Oz suggested.
In Missouri, state lawmakers convene today in Jefferson City, free of the Eric Greitens cloud. Last year, Greitens resigned after a tumultuous session filled with allegations of infidelity and dark money.
When you get past the personal failings, Greitens’ real problem was his inability to work with others and reach any sort of compromise. His was the old story of the outsider who vows to shake things up but is instead paralyzed when someone has the nerve to say, “no.”
The new governor, Mike Parson, shares his predecessor’s conservative leanings but brings a style that’s considerable different from a brash outsider. Parson served as a sheriff, a state lawmaker and lieutenant governor before become the state’s top executive.
It sounds boring, but we could use some of that. On issues ranging from transportation funding to the initiative petition process, Parson will need to do what Greitens and so many in Washington are unable to do: Strike deals while remaining true to core principals.
We might all be happier if we end up a little unhappy.