When did “compromise” become a byword for betrayal and weakness? When did desiring to find common ground, to meet somewhere in the middle to get something done, morph into a seamy, squalid, unspeakable act that you wouldn’t want your mother to catch you doing?

The worst act a politician can commit these days is not posting sexy photos, being incompetent or even being an adulterer. It’s the unforgivable sin of compromising with someone from the opposing party.

Former first lady Barbara Bush, whose husband is one of the last living politicians who understand the necessity of compromise, recently expressed her concern at a forum at Southern Methodist University: “I hate that people think compromise is a dirty word. It’s not a dirty word. ... I think the rest of the world is looking at us these days and saying, ‘What are you doing?’ ”

Similarly, the liberal wing of the Democratic party has been tearing its hair out because of Barack Obama’s centrist bent. Obama, conversely, has spent a good chunk of his presidency flummoxed by people on both sides of the aisle for whom compromise is as foreign as Sanskrit.

Certainly language is organic, but when did “compromise” become a byword for betrayal and weakness? When did desiring to find common ground, to meet somewhere in the middle to get something done, morph into a seamy, squalid, unspeakable act that you wouldn’t want your mother to catch you doing?

The kind of give-and-take required of good public service doesn’t play well in a country that appears to be in the throes of attention deficit disorder. Today, you can hear three of George Carlin’s “seven dirty words” on TV (you figure them out), but not “I’m a moderate,” even though it’s where most Americans pitch their political tent.

Perhaps the majority huddling in those tents is just being shouted down by an angry few who see too many monsters under the bed, who peruse too many well-looky-here political websites. One thing is certain: What constitutes a “dirty” word has changed.

Such terms as compassion, civility, patience and moderation have become verboten. Bang the drum for “cooperation” and you may find yourself accosted by someone who questions your citizenship while wanting to wash out your mouth with soap.

As a result, moderates such as Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, former Rep. Bart Stupek of Michigan, and, to some extent, even former Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, are being chased to the outskirts of the village.

Last year, when former presidential candidate Mitch Daniels suggested laying aside social issues to concentrate on the unsexy minutiae of the economic recovery, some people practically questioned his manhood.

But isn’t setting aside a part of your agenda to achieve the greater good one of the first things you learn in kindergarten?

Isn’t that what the “Clean Up Song” is all about?

Contact Charita Goshay at charita.goshay@cantonrep.com.