Compromise, in some ways, is the watchword of life. Everything in college is about compromise: trade-offs and opportunity costs, practicality and dreaming, long-term and short-term goals and gratification and aggravation. It’s the cornerstone and design of politics, in theory. Pluralism. We found hope in the idea that more statesmen would occupy the aisle than stand on either side of it.
Today, this semester’s installment of “Playing Politics” draws to a close. At the same time, I realize that my college experience is about to transition from being halfway begun to halfway over. The first days of freshman year felt like summer camp. These halls are old news now. Compromises have been made. We try to find the balance between preparing for the future and holding on to the time we have.
It’s ironic for many of us — to be in the middle of an era of opportunity and youth at the same time as this country is embroiled in such great fatigue. The stress of our horrifying national politics has affected us all. I remember walking to class the day after the election. People were in tears in the stairwells. We experienced mass mourning, the death of a dream.
For a moment we thought our incredible youth and energy, the electricity of our global generation, had reached the top rung of the ladder, and all that passion would be reflected in a great historic event, the victory of our time. Instead, there’s horror, grief and betrayal. We were handed a half-wit administration of regressive, aggressive hatred, dysfunction, unbelievable irresponsibility, collusion and greed, conflict of interest and a contemptible dishonoring of the office and the nation. And then, to add insult to injury, young liberals betrayed themselves.
Out from a ploy for moral superiority came the supplicant, embarrassing, altogether bleeding-heart harping to understand the Trumpian racists, to give the new administration a big, happy chance and sympathize with its suddenly forgettable misogyny and racism, to excuse its homophobia and ham-handed economic governance in the name of holding hands and smiling. We thought the way to stave off that feeling of bitter grief was, as with anything, to reach out. It was a crap deal. As we approach a new, bitter era of politics in which the majority has resolved to rule with the audacity of absolute monarchy (that one’s for you, Mitch McConnell) we get to learn a bitter, tired lesson.
There are principles on which you cannot compromise.
This column was originally going to be about compromise itself, the togetherness of politics — maybe if it were written during the summer-camp vibes of freshman naiveté. But I still often awaken to the horrifying sight of a CNN alert. It still stings to think about former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and how little we deserved her efforts, her hope and her mind.
I don’t hate President Donald Trump. When I think about him, I feel a surprising indifference. But I do detest everything he represents. Don’t buy into the baseless dream that hateful and nationalistic politics are legitimate, deserving or respectable. Those who practice them should, of course, have the unalienable right to believe in their ways and express them freely. But that doesn’t make them deserving of your compromise. When it comes to the politics of this new age, do not disparage your Democratic representatives for playing hardball. The protection of civil rights, economic prosperity and social progress is determined by the level of solidarity we maintain. Negotiating with nationalists will not make everything OK again.
There is such a thing as objective truth. Transgender people are citizens who lawfully deserve equal rights. Gay marriage is legal and valid, a reality your personal mythology cannot change. The definition of murder is not negated by the victim’s race. Members of the Trump administration had contact with Russians. Climate change is a reality. Health care is a necessity. Higher education is a necessity. The new West Wing is understaffed, underprepared and mutinying. The United States is not “great” again; it is more vulnerable than ever.
We will have to make many compromises throughout our lives. This isn’t one of them. As the summer approaches, I’ll leave you with one last thought — in an era of trial, struggle, disappointment and horror, do not, above all, forget your principles.
Lily Vaughan is a sophomore majoring in history and political science. Her column,“Playing Politics,” ran on Fridays.