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Davis Journal

Compromise is essential to avoid another Civil War

Sep 09, 2022 10:02AM ● By Bryan Gray

Several months ago I attended a seminar featuring former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., who discussed challenges facing the United States in foreign and domestic policy.

The former ambassador to China and Russia explained that battles, either military or economic, were problematic for the U.S. since leaders of both countries view the world differently than us.

“Both China and Russia want to return to global dominance by returning to their former dynasties and empires,” he said.  A rational modern-day compromise is difficult, he said, when Putin and his Chinese counterpart are motivated by a sense of history. The countries don’t want to feel comfortable; they want to expand and become modern-day behemoths on the world stage – and to achieve these aims, the leaders are willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of their own people.  

On the domestic front, Huntsman was also somewhat gloomy. The biggest problem, he said, was not inflation or global warming or immigration or education.

“My greatest fear,” he said, “is that we are close to a new Civil War, with large segments of Americans refusing to listen to the other side and compromise to settle differences.” 

Yes, much like the Middle East and parts of Africa, Americans are becoming more tribal. Too often, entire neighborhoods reflect a “sameness” in terms of race, religion, and politics.  It is rural vs. urban, college-educated vs. non-college educated, young vs. old.

A co-worker told me of a recent “blow up” at a family party where the under-35 attendees clashed with older members of the family over gay rights. The birthday party for his mother exploded into verbal assaults and finger-pointing. To the extent that the mother and her husband walked out, vowing to never enter their son’s home again.  Another friend explained he never engaged in family parties due to acrimonious debates about Trump and racial issues.  A client advised me he refused to invite a brother-in-law to a family reunion due to the relative’s right-wing conspiracy theory views. 

It is sad, but tribal politics, not compromise, is a winning ticket for elected officials. Three out of every four Americans agreed in a recent poll that too much debt can hurt the economy, yet both Republicans and Democrats jack up the national debt, even though only 30% of Americans favor more tax cuts if it increased the debt.  

How easy it should be for members of both parties to sit down and create a long-term plan, slicing spending from every department and, if necessary, imposing additional means of revenue to lower the national debt and provide stability for Social Security and Medicare.  In a compromise, “everyone’s ox would be gored,” and no one would entirely get their way. Everyone, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, would sacrifice something for the common good.

As Huntsman said, “Gasoline prices would come down, for instance, if President Biden and the oil companies got together with a plan for lowering prices in exchange for extra drilling privileges.  Instead, we’re heading for a Civil War where no one will give and take due to extremist political views.”

As Pogo, the comic strip character, famously said, “We have met the enemy – and it is us!”

Bryan Gray, a long time Davis County resident, is a former school teacher and has been a columnist for more than 26 years in newspapers along the Wasatch Front. λ