Compromise and the Law of the Excluded Middle

So much of political talk in the last couple of decades has been about “working across the aisle, “ to “get things done.” These discussions have been filled with a sentimental, "Kumbaya" longing, “Can’t we all just get along?” This recent Iowa caucus vote has brought us to the stark realization that concession and reconciliation is not at all what conservative voters want. Why? Because conservatives are logical people and the only compromise the left wants flies in the face of the third law of logic.

Logic isn’t a high priority in liberal circles, though progressives like the word, they either don’t know the rules of the reasoning game or they feel justified in breaking them.

Let’s do a quick review:

Rule 1) The Law of Identity: a thing is what it is and is not something else. It is not what it is not. This seems obvious until you start looking at some leftist equations: financing ISIS = fighting ISIS; snow storms = global warming; voter ID = voter suppression. Obviously someone didn’t get the memo.

Rule 2) The Law of Non-Contradiction: something can’t be both true and not true at the same time. Example: “There is no such thing as absolute truth.” That’s wrong on so many levels, but according to the statement nothing can be true, so that very statement is also untrue. Which, of course, gets us back to the first law – according to that, truth has to mean truth. Enough. I can feel my gray matter circling the drain.

Rule 3) The Law of the Excluded Middle: something is either true or not true -- there is no middle ground. This is unfortunate because it’s comfy in that misty middle. No decisions have to be made, no ground defended, no friendships lost. Even sadder is the truth that the fuzzy middle is a Wile E. Coyote position which leaves a person frantically treading air until gravity finally wins. And it always wins.

What holy happy mediums are seeing the ground rush up at them these days? Let’s look:

Religious neutrality: either we believe, and practice what we believe, or not. The left wants us to skulk around silently communing with our God, but never using God’s mandates as a guide to make our private and public decisions, never applying, never following God’s command to “go tell it on the mountain.” Our public schools are to be neutral on the issue of religious belief, but there is no neutral; a person either believes in God or he doesn’t. Even an agnostic is not in the middle -- does he believe? A “not yet” is still a negative. He doesn’t.

And what about Christ? Can we just agree to disagree (a senseless thought if there ever was one) and say that He was a good man, maybe even a prophet (whatever they think that means)? No. That won’t work. He claimed to be the Son of God. He claimed to be deity. He claimed to be King of the Jews. That is why both the Saducees and the Romans conspired to kill him. So either He was the King of Kings, or he was a crazy crook; either way He wasn’t just a nice guy. There’s no comfortable middle ground there.

Amnesty: Is sneaking across the border illegal or not? Sort of isn’t an answer. Some folk like to divide illegal immigrants into two camps: those who have committed crimes, and those who haven’t, as if breaking the immigration law is acceptable. Which brings us back to the first law – illegal is illegal, is it not? Or the second law – can an act be both illegal and legal at the same time? Not if we’re being logical. Illegals are in the criminal camp because they’re illegal.

Gun control: do we have that right to own guns, or don’t we? Since the early days of our country individual states have tried to find a middle ground on the 2nd Amendment. In fact, many of the earliest efforts to control gun ownership were in the South where people grew concerned about what would happen if their slaves acquired guns. Should this be an absolute? I’ll admit that it might be odd for one’s neighbor to own a tank and collect mortar rounds, but that’s just it -- who would? These human rights we speak of are God-given, correct? Then can man, should man abrogate that right? Either the right to arm oneself exists or it doesn’t. There’s no refuge lane.

Islamic immigration: Well, is Islam good or bad? It can’t be both and there is no middle ground. Does the Qur’an promote violent aggressive proselytizing? Yes. When they say “Death to America!” are they saying it in a good way? Is there a centrist position between that statement and the American Constitution? Is there a point of compromise? From looking at the Iran deal recently hammered out by the intrepid John Kerry, I’d say no, not really.

So does this mean that compromise is never possible? No. It means that conciliation on matters of principle cannot be an option. We all agree that immigration laws are necessary, but we can compromise on the number of people we allow in, on the attributes we’ll find acceptable for entrance, on the issues of sponsorship, welfare access, etc. What we can’t do is refuse to enforce a law that has been duly legislated. The law is the law, or it’s not, and if it’s not then we can’t call it a law (see Rules 1 and 2). 

Now look at the current presidential election. Where does the Law of the Excluded Middle apply here? The excluded middle has been the Republican election strategy ever since Reagan -- some brain-eating virus wormed its way into (by way of Ivy League academia, no doubt) the GOP election groupies and morphed into a dementia that demands that our candidates and our positions must try to stay afloat out there above no-man’s land; that there is no way to amass enough votes unless we join our deluded counterparts, give a nod to Marx, embrace (pun intended) gay rights, and hate the rich.

It is no wonder that this hasn’t worked. America is made up of very sensible people; we know in our heart-of-hearts that right is right, that what works, works and what doesn’t won’t. We find leaders who want to equivocate on rock solid principle completely disturbing. After seven years of Obama we find the unicorn-petting intolerable. We will have sensible, rational, logical governance.

In Iowa last week the middle-ground folk of the GOP grappled one last time for a shot at the White House, but Iowans were having none of it. They excluded the middle and went instead (over 60% of them) for the three most clear-voiced and insistent about righting the left-hand turns this country has taken. The clearest voice of all, Ted Cruz, came out on top, proving that Iowa knows its logic, knows that up isn’t down; knows that evil isn’t good, no matter how it’s dressed up; and knows that big government is not freedom and prosperity and never, never will be.

Deana Chadwell is an adjunct professor and department head at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. She teaches writing, logic, and literature. She can be contacted at

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