n. 1. a. A settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions.
b. The result of such a settlement.2. Something that combines qualities or elements of different things: The incongruous design is a compromise between high tech and early American.3. A concession to something detrimental or pejorative
One thing that nobody can deny is that we are within one of the most interesting periods of Alberta politics in over a decade. Many people are surprised at the explosive growth of the Wildrose Alliance Party which is suddenly showing itself to be a very serious contender to be considered by the Alberta electorate.
One of the key elements that has allowed the WAP to break out of what has been considered “fringe” status has been the ability of the people involved within the party to accept a degree of compromise.
There are countless parties languishing within the political wilderness and the thing that will keep them on the outside looking in is their inability to accept compromise. Some parties are easy to identify as they name themselves based on a single issue that they will never compromise on (Green Party, Marijuana Party, Separation Party etc). While other fringe parties may not carry their burden right in their names, a glancing evaluation of their policies will invariably display why they will remain on the outskirts of mainstream politics whether federally or provincially.
A giant step in the evolution of right of center alternative parties in Alberta occurred when the Alberta Alliance Party and the Wildrose Party merged. It became clear to people seeking an alternative to the PC party of Alberta that such an alternative will never come about if right of center movements keep splintering and fighting among themselves. Many people demanded that this practice end and the boards of both the Wildrose Party and the Alberta Alliance Party began the realize the futility of their walking along separate paths. The merger of the two parties took months of negotiation that was often heated and progress waxed and waned.
Some people within the boards on both sides refused to accept compromise and it hindered negotiations greatly. Minor issues were nitpicked and hairs were split in hopes of derailing the process. Both boards realized that the merger would never come if a couple of key individuals continued in the negotiation process. The compromise that was reached was that each party would remove one of those individuals from the negotiation process. In one meeting without the participation with those two, the agreement was drafted which would lead to the memberships of both parties accepting a merger of the two parties.
Now what is more important than the merger itself is the the people who remained and carried on with the newly formed party. People who stubbornly refused to accept any form of compromise were shed and a party executive that understood the benefits of examining more than one point of view was born. A broader vision was adopted by the party executive and critical discussions could happen without people petulantly storming from the room. Progress in party growth and evolution happened at a rate never seen before as the board worked with a cooperative attitude. Prominent and skilled people were drawn to the management of the party as it became evident that clear focus was finally coming from the helm.
The next large turning point for the party was the annual general meeting that was held in Calgary last June. A massive cleaning of party policies was proposed and was accepted by the membership at the meeting. In a party with a fringe mentality, such a wholesale change would never have been adopted as the uncompromising would have dominated the room. The single issue folks with chips on their shoulders tried to fight back by utilizing the means of member driven policy by trying to insert the types of policies that hinder fringe parties into the new and improved policy set adopted by the membership.
A motion calling for the party to accept a separatist stance was proposed. That motion was never even considered by the membership as nobody within the room would even second it. I was almost disappointed when that happened as I had prepared a long diatribe to speak against this idiocy and pursuit of political suicide and I never had a chance to speak it to the room. I comforted myself by ranting against an almost equally inane proposal that called for the provincial government to assume management of private trade associations. That motion was quashed by nearly 100% of the room by the way.
Not only did we shed such fringe policy proposals in that meeting, we shed many of the proponents of these proposals which is equally if not a more important outcome of that meeting. The proponent of the separatist motion abandoned the room when it was clear her proposal was going nowhere. I say good riddance. While I would like to see as many passionate and involved people as possible working towards policy development within the party, we are better off without those who will only participate based on a single issue.
I have been on the losing end of motions in executive meetings with the current party and with prior partisan incarnations that I have been involved with. I have felt frustration and have felt that the board took the wrong stance. Despite those feelings, never for a second did I consider storming off in a pout and no longer participating in the party. I had to accept that either; a) I did not make a strong enough case or; b) I was simply wrong (it has been known to happen). Our party has become dominated with people who can accept such things and this has shown in the unity we now enjoy as well as the wise decisions that have come from collective and open discussion.
Other more recent events have been great factors in the exposure and growth that the party is seeing. The election of Paul Hinman in Calgary Glenmore was one event and the leadership race currently underway with two excellently qualified candidates is the other. Neither of these events would ever have come to play had we been dominated by a group of uncompromising individuals as fringe parties are prone to being.
Part of what brings about my extended rambling here though is reading and hearing from uncompromising individuals regarding the leadership. So many that say they will storm into this direction or that direction if such and such wins. I don’t see our leadership race as having been that divisive and no matter what the outcome I am confident that we will end with a stronger and more unified party than ever before. While I would prefer that those who refuse to accept compromise grow up and learn to look at a bigger picture, I am almost as happy to simply watch them storm away after having not gotten their way. Such people simply foster division and hinder progress.
I expect that no matter what the outcome of our leadership race that there will be some folks who will try to send a rallying cry with yet another new party. Personally I think that may not be such a bad thing. Let a new (or existing) party collect the single issue cranks. Let that bunch gather others such as Alberta’s perennial “leaders” who’s only wish is to be a big fish in a small pond. The absence of these people will only foster further growth and a better collective wisdom within the Wildrose Alliance Party. I expect the attempted rise of another right of center party will simply act as a crank-filter for us.
I am a person driven by ideals. I began in politics by taking many unrealistic stands and pursuing many unrealistic goals. While doing so over the past 15 years or so I have been learning through my actions. What is more important to me? Dying on a hill of uncompromising idealism or actually making changes that will better the province no matter how small they may appear? My goal is to improve Alberta for all Albertans. Sure there are some dreamland events that I think would act as catalysts for quick and large change. I also understand that Albertans do not want to follow that path. I accept the collective wisdom of the province and now seek to find changes and improvements for the province that can actually be achieved. I find taking this rational path to be much more personally satisfying as I can see progress towards actual improvement in our province.
While the Wildrose Alliance Party is learning how to compromise and to listen to a broader spectrum, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives under Ed Stelmach have been moving in the opposite direction. Catastrophic errors have been made by the government in the past few years. Despite that, the government stubbornly refuses to accept that it could have possibly erred. Ideas and compromise are not considerations. Health workers began to publicly speak out on problems. They were gagged. MLAs have spoken up for their constituents. They were gagged. The Chief Electoral Officer of Alberta recommended changes; he was fired. If the government put half of the effort into some introspection as they do towards shutting down dissenting voices, they may actually slow their plummeting in support within Alberta.
Alas the StelmachPCs are incapable of compromise and it will indeed be their downfall.
Excess compromise is a risk as well. A party can’t simply be governed by polls. A party at times has to lead as well as reflect the wishes of the electorate. That combination is impossible without a degree of compromise. Critical thought is impossible without compromise, progress is impossible without compromise and party growth is impossible without compromise. The degree of compromise is always and should always be up for debate. As long as it can be debated though the party is healthy.
When people spit out compromise in a derogatory way, keep this posting in mind.
Now appeasement is a different story altogether and compromise is often wrongly substituted for that word. The problems with appeasement are fodder for another rambling posting on another day. 🙂