The Collapse of Compromise
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
It is sometimes utterly amazing what politicians will sell the American public.
The recent Senate squabble over the so-called “nuclear option,” which threatened to abolish the old rules governing Senate filibusters, or the ability of a minority of Senators to create roadblocks in the daily business of the Senate, came to an end, when a number of Senators, Democrats and Republicans, agreed to a compromise that takes the “nuclear option” off the table (for now), while the Senate proceeds to conduct up or down votes on President Bush’s right-wing judicial nominees.
Already, Texas Supreme Court jurist, Priscilla Owens, now wears the robe of a judge of the Court of Appeals—for life.
By the time you read this, it’s quite possible that California Supreme Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown will have been elevated to the D.C. Court of Appeals, the same bench that Clarence Thomas warmed for some 13 months before George W. Bush’s daddy, the first President Bush, named him to the U.S. Supreme Court.
By the Compromise of 14 (7 Democrats and 7 Republicans), the gates are now open for some of the most antidemocratic, arch-conservative, anti-New Deal jurists in the nation’s history, to sit in judgment of other Americans for generations.
If this is compromise, what does defeat look like?
Many will argue that the compromise was a political necessity to “preserve American traditions,” or to “protect American values.”
One wonders: what “traditions?” What “values?”
The so-called “Great Compromise” of 1790 made the United States possible. But, it was a compromise that, 75 years later, would explode across these states as Civil War, leaving over half a million people dead.
For Africans, it was a “not-so-great” compromise, for it was based on the North’s quiet acquiescence and then embracement of slavery.
That is the great American “tradition,” and “value” protected by this Compromise.
In the words of the Great Liberator, Harriet Tubman, who knew what she was talking about, slavery was “the next thing to hell.” That “Great Compromise” kept millions in bondage for a century.
That compromise, as well as the compromises between North and South, after the Civil War, meant vast betrayals of the very people, the very men, who fought and died for the Union—if they were Black people.
Compromise meant betrayal.
It meant White Supremacy uber alles.
It meant treating those who fought against the Union, better than those who (if they were Black) fought for it.
It meant betrayal.
Today, it means betrayal of the essence of opposing the worst, most exclusive jurists that Bush can find, for the form of keeping the sacred tradition of filibustering safe.
We shall see, perhaps sooner than we think, the costs of such compromise. And like the other compromises of the past, it may take a century to undo the great and terrible damage they will do.
As before, it took great struggle, and sacrifice, to bring change.
Such struggle must begin anew, against the forces of repression, of fear of closed doors, and crushed hopes.
To quote another great freedom-fighter, Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has, and it never will.”
If you want change, you must act as if you do; there is no other true alternative.
Join an organization that shares your ideas.
Then work to make it happen.