[Viewpoint] Can conservatives compromise?

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[Viewpoint] Can conservatives compromise?

After the local elections, more than a few acquaintances called me for an election chat. Some expressed surprise over the outcome while others shared insights on why the ruling Grand National Party lost so many votes.

Every election leaves some despondent and others cheering. A society does not become complete or move toward an end point, but continues with the process of evolution. An election may be a signal of change or some kind of culmination.

More important than feeling disappointed or excited is how one embraces the change in the popular current, which in the longer run can affect the next election results.

Casting a ballot is an expression of one’s convictions. We are relieved and delighted when many sharing our convictions are elected. It is because we expect the country will move in a direction in sync with our own beliefs.

When the election produces an upset, we feel tension and resentment. And delight and disappointment are more acutely felt when a society is deeply split. These emotions are not just felt by politicians. The greater one’s conviction, the stronger one’s mortification or jubilation will be.

We are told that we must learn to accept and compromise when a verdict is made by a majority. It is the core principle of democracy. So should I change my faith according to an election outcome? Must a person with a conservative backbone, in order to be a democratic citizen, change his or her beliefs if a liberal set wins an election?

The answer is no. A person’s convictions and the results of an election are two different things. A totally pragmatic or political person may not need convictions. A political person can recast his thoughts according to a change in political winds. An overly practical person can modify his beliefs for self-serving purposes.

But if everyone was political and pragmatic, justice wouldn’t survive in this society. Where power lies in relation to my convictions is the gauge of social judgment.

It isn’t that we should discredit election results when they are contrary to our conviction. We have agreed to give the victors a certain period to prove their competence.

Democracy must strictly respect this rule. We should be proud that we now have such respect for the law. But we should spend some time re-examining our convictions through the lens of election results. We live among many who do not share our personal convictions.

If my beliefs are important, then so are others’. To live harmoniously in this society, sometimes we have to tuck away our opinions. This is what compromise is all about.

If I insist that I am always right, others cannot breathe. There are priorities in my convictions. The more I surrender, the more precious the values I have left will be. In this way, I can keep my convictions.

The conservatives have been defeated in this election. That the GNP nominated wrong candidates, remained on the sidelines, and exploited the Cheonan sinking too bluntly are all points of strategy. Strategy is not the real reason for the GNP’s defeat.

Just look at the outcome of the Seoul mayoral election. The incumbent government is merely supported by the wealthy set living in the southern districts of Gangnam. The election map shows a besieged government of a minority.

The government may have trammelled up the consequences by adhering too closely to its own values. This may have come across as arrogance and obstinacy to most of the population. The election setback has caused deep anxiety among the conservative population.

It isn’t because the conservative government has lost, but it is because they fear their conservative values will be undermined with the election defeat.

If the government remains intractable and domineering for the remaining two and a half years of its term and the local governments headed by liberals pursue their agendas in knee-jerk opposition, state governance will inevitably hit a stalemate.

One side will have to yield. The party that yields more will end up safeguarding its core values. The conservatives value security the most. They disapprove of some liberals because of the latter’s relatively loose security awareness. Domestic affairs can be swayed by different wings. But there cannot be a right or left in security issues. The second priority is education. Giving free school lunches and pursuing innovative or elite curriculum are peripheral.

But reshaping values and principles in classrooms must be stopped. Damming the four rivers and the Sejong City revision are other issues that we can compromise on.

The people speak through their votes. If the conservatives really have values they want to defend, they must relinquish their secondary goals. The people will trust the yielding side.

*Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.


By Moon Chang-keuk

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