Debate at Penn: Have We Lost the Spirit of Compromise in America?

PHILADELPHIA –- Will a hard-fought U.S. election, replete with record spending and ever more divisive rhetoric, really change anything in Washington?

A panel including University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann and moderated by Michael Delli Carpini, dean of Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication, will debate these questions and more on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at Penn. The event is sponsored by Penn’s Annenberg School of Communication, the Department of Political Science, and the Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program.

Panelists participating in “Time to Deal: Reawakening the Spirit of Compromise in American Politics” will address how we can best avoid short-term problems — such as the fiscal cliff approaching on Dec. 31 — and work to come up with long-term solutions for the good of the country, even when political opponents disagree.

“The risk to our country is greater than ever if our political leaders can’t compromise, because a persistent failure to compromise biases the political process in favor of the status quo,” said Gutmann, who co-authored, with Dennis Thompson, The Spirit of Compromise: How Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It. “The status quo doesn’t mean that nothing changes. It just means that politicians let other forces control the change.”

Delli Carpini and Gutmann will be joined by three political experts for the panel:

William A. Galston, senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, is a former policy advisor to President Clinton and presidential candidates, Galston is an expert on domestic policy, political campaigns and elections. His current research focuses on designing a new social contract and the implications of political polarization.

Russell Muirhead is the Robert Clements Associate Professor of Democracy and Politics at Dartmouth College. The author of Just Work (Harvard University Press, 2004), he is currently at work on a book on partisanship titled A Defense of Party Spirit.

Dennis F. Thompson is professor of government and the Alfred North Whitehead Professor of Political Philosophy at Harvard University. He is also professor of public policy in the John F. Kennedy School of Government, founding director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics and co-author of The Spirit of Compromise with Gutmann.  

Due to limited space, the event is not public, but media are invited to attend. Reporters must RSVP to Ron Ozio at