Joe Henderson: Bob Dole’s legacy reminds us compromise isn’t always bad
Image via AP.

When one side believes they are always right and the other is always wrong, we get complete polarization.

The headline in Time magazine Sunday announcing Bob Dole’s death included a word we rarely hear these days. It called him a “Senate legend who championed compromise.”


In today’s scorched-earth political world, compromise is a foreign concept, and that’s not good. The attitude that “we get everything, you get nothing” is a major reason why many Americans have tuned out politicians. It’s why younger people see both major parties as evil replicas of one another.

After the Tea Party’s rise in 2009, I remember talking with one of its members for about an hour because I wanted to know at least something of what it was all about.

He rattled off some of the usual talking points — smaller government, lower taxes, Second Amendment rights, and so on. At some point, I recall suggesting that maybe they ought to work with people who have different ideas and reach reasonable compromises.

I can still see that guy’s face when I said that. His forehead scrunched up, his eyes narrowed and lowered, and he said this: “Why should we compromise on anything when we’re right?”

This is not to blame our current malaise strictly on the Tea Party, though. There were contentious, no-compromise issues in this country long before those folks came along. Abortion, gun rights, school prayer, and gay marriage are some of the issues that helped create today’s divide.

Here’s the thing, though. Nobody is right about everything, and it’s dangerous when anyone on either side of the aisle believes they are.

When anyone becomes convinced beyond reason in the brilliance of their ideas, opposing views get swamped in hyperbolic goo, immediately amplified in the cable news/social media echo chamber.

Tucker Carlson doesn’t have such a large audience and paycheck because he is the sage voice of reason. He’s a Doberman with a microphone and an audience that wants to be furious about anything relating to the other side.

Oh, it’s the same thing on MSNBC, too, especially with its popular “Morning Joe” show.

That’s why people like Bob Dole are museum pieces in today’s public discourse. They are considered quaint and out of touch with the modern reality, sort of like President Joe Biden.

Remember how he ran as the “great uniter” in our polarized politics? The American people bought into that, giving him about 7 million more votes than the great divider from Mar-a-Lago.

Alas, Biden can’t even unite his own party, let alone the Republicans.

Closer to home, Gov. Ron DeSantis actually attempted to find solutions early in his term that appealed to both parties. It worked, too, as his popularity and profile increased dramatically, but that came with a cost.

People talked up DeSantis’ presidential chances, which seemed to drive him from the center on many issues toward positions designed to please the rigid Republican base.

DeSantis screams about culture wars, but goes out of his way to start them with things like his anti-riot bill. He complains about federal overreach, but then usurps mayoral powers in local governments across the state.

Again, no compromise.

Does he ask those mayors what they think about issues like COVID-19? He made it clear that he — and not local school boards — will decide on masks and other virus mitigation efforts.

And with every edict and chest bump, his popularity with the base increases while driving the other side into deeper loathing. He loves it, too, because it means cha-ching for his campaign accounts.

It reminds me of what that Tea Party guy said about compromise. We’re always right, and you’re always wrong.

When someone believes that deep in their being, they stop talking with and listening to other voices. They receive the same from the other side. You could say we’re already there.

If we’re not, though, that reality is at least too close for comfort.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • ScienceBLVR

    December 6, 2021 at 7:55 pm

    You are so right, Joe. Just read some of the usual posters here and you see the vitriol and lack of even the slightest acknowledgement that the other side has a legitimate view. And then they wish you dead! I, too, initially thought DeSantis had some good ideas and would be a moderate, but man, that changed quick.
    I mean, now he wants his own army? Yikes, no worries about representing all Floridians, just his rabid base.

    • Tom

      December 6, 2021 at 8:11 pm

      Demented, disbeliever.

      At least 22 states have a state guard.
      There is nothing improper in having one. If legislature agrees, they can consider it.

      You are a danger to society. Your thoughts are bizarre and off center.

      Somehow interjecting the Governor into this is crazy snd malicious. Your effects to smear is fascist.


    • Ron Ogden

      December 7, 2021 at 8:04 am

      “He’s a Doberman with a microphone. . .”
      This is the Demo voice of reason speaking?
      Joe, the fault for the state of American democracy lies with you–you, Joe Henderson–and others like you who preach religion (in the political sense) and live like devils).

  • Tom

    December 6, 2021 at 8:00 pm

    Senator Dole was a patriot.

    Humble man, from Midwest, poor upbringing, who sacrificed much and his body in war. His community passed the can to raise money for his surgery to recover.

    Bob Dole was a true “legislator”, he chaired Senate finance and wrote tax law and social security reform.

    A Senate giant and good decent man.
    Well done, RIP

    Compromise is to be a mutual agreement. Not one sided, with crumbs offered as to go along in a vote. Democrats demand 95%, no compromise just crumbs. Just saying.

  • Ron N.

    December 6, 2021 at 8:16 pm

    Give me a break. The Dems have a 5 seat margin in the House, are tied 50-50 in Senate, with an incoherent dolt in the WH with a 35% approval rating , and are steamrolling things like they have a 3×1 majority. Don’t give me your can’t we all get along compromise crap.

    • Tom

      December 6, 2021 at 8:24 pm

      Agreed Ron, that’s not how Dems roll.

      It doesn’t matter how much of a loaf you may have. It’s how you use it.
      Dems are masters of govt. Crumbs for compromise, our way or the highway.
      Just saying

      • Ocean Joe

        December 7, 2021 at 1:23 pm

        Speaking of the highway, how bout that transportation bill, supported by Dems and 19 GOP Senators and 13 GOP congressmen? And like clock work, Donald stepped away from the buffet table to excoriate them, for putting country first. Florida, whose GOP reps all voted as Trump directed, will get a lot more than crumbs, Tom.

        • Tom

          December 7, 2021 at 4:22 pm

          Dems refused to cooperate with Trump and Repubs on infrastructure.
          Just like a crime reform bill. But whose counting.

          That’s not a infrastructure bill.
          Just a largesse federal Christmas tree bill. It’s less than 10% roads.

          Both transportation committees needed to pass it. Not Nancy & Chuck.
          Spare us ocean. I’m the political scientist, and congressional and White House analyst. Electoral guru, just saying.

      • Joe HEnderson

        December 7, 2021 at 1:59 pm

        Oh, Tom, you mean the “highway” Mitch McConnell took on two Supreme Court openings that will fundamentally change life for women in this country for decades? That’s right, GOP is the party of freedom — as long as it gets to dictate what that looks like. I guess he compromised, though. On one nominee he stalled the process for about 10 months. For the other, it was warp factor 10. Just saying.

        • Tom

          December 7, 2021 at 4:13 pm

          Thanks Joe, make no mistake my friend, whoever holds the majority has the leverage.

          Be clear, if past Potus Obama or present Potus Biden had vacancy and majority they would act.

          Thank God Mitch stopped Garland. What an embarrassment. They didn’t have the votes.

          Mitch did with Garland and the last 3 nominees.

          There may be changes to Roe but abortion will still be legal. It’s not clear a less mount of time won’t be offered.

          Roe itself is awful court decision. So be it for now. Pelosi & Schumer can pass a bill anytime. Potus can sign it.

          I enjoy your columns, even if I disagree.

          We will see.
          Just saying.

        • Tom

          December 7, 2021 at 10:37 pm

          Joe, Three but whose counting, LMAO.

    • Tom

      December 6, 2021 at 8:26 pm

      Ron, Who u talking to?

  • Tom

    December 6, 2021 at 8:20 pm

    Joe, be fair. Your WH team made America’s Governor a conservative rock star.

    They’ve bent backwards to build him up, so they could tear him down. They failed miserably.

    They don’t mention his name now cause they know better. Your right though it is to late.

    Be fair.

Comments are closed.


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