The Disappearance of Compromise: Wolterstorff on America's Political Landscape
Philosophy professor Nicholas Wolterstorff describes the troubling lack of democratic conversation and accommodation that he finds in the current political/moral atmosphere.
Nick, thank you so much for joining me.
You’re welcome, Evan, happy.
You’ve taught philosophy and theology for over half a century. And you’ve witnessed massive social change, times of upheaval, times of progress. Just wonder from your perspective today, what is the current moral landscape look like to you?
Yeah you’re right, I have lived through big changes. I lived through the civil rights struggle, through the Vietnam War, through the chaos that accompanied the Vietnam War, and to some extent, accompanied the civil rights movement, and so forth. As to the landscape now, there was, I thought, an insightful column by David Brooks in the New York Times about three weeks ago, in which Brooks commented on what he’d call the decline of democratic culture and what he meant by that was that an democracy depends, democracy like ours depends on people of different parties, persuasions, at some point in the process, getting together, working out accommodations, compromises, that neither party is entirely happy with, but that neither party is entirely unhappy with either, so it’s not winner take all.
Brooks observed, and that seems to be correct, that that’s been breaking down for the past 30 years. And I fear that we’re becoming more like Iraq. I mean, Iraq, that they have a democracy in the sense that they have votes, but its been the Shiites take all or the Sunnis take all and they haven’t been willing to compromise. And I think that that’s been going on in the US, increasingly so in the US, for the past 30 years.
Yeah, some studies show a deepening and entrenching of left versus right, that 30, 40 years ago we were overall, as a whole, more moderate, and able to find more common ground.
Yeah and it’d be okay if one had a vigorous left and a vigorous right. If the two parties acknowledged that at some point in the progresses, they’ve got to get together and work out, as I say, some accommodations, some compromise, that both of them are fairly happy with and both of them are not entirely happy with.