Thursday, December 16, 2010


As I watch the final negotiations going on about turning the "Bush Tax Cuts" into the "Obama Tax Rates", I cannot help but be amused at the maundering of many of the political pundits going on out there. While recognizing many of them as probably better educated and certainly better connected than I am, I find that they appear to be suffering from compromised thinking ... about compromise. As we once again are regaled with the very public 'sausage making' of the legislation under negotiation, like many I find myself more than a little disgusted with what these media pundits find laudable in the process. 

We are told that President Obama has somehow given in without a fight to the right (though not without calling opponents some names) by granting tax breaks to the rich, to the detriment of his left-wing base and his potential re-election in two years. We are likewise told that the Republicans in both Houses of Congress have sold out their fiscally conservative principles in the name of no longer being seen as the party of no. 

On top of the unemployment insurance that was always part of the deal (and which admittedly both sides wanted anyway), they have allowed the left to add extraneous nonsense to enter the negotiations on legislation for such things alternative energy and ethanol subsidies; seriously jeopardizing voter support they received in the recent election. Mostly what we are told however, is that both sides are showing a return to a bi-partisan spirit in crafting this legislation, and that this is indeed a beautiful thing.

But what is the value of such compromise? Are elected representatives to be applauded for giving up on what they told us were fervently held beliefs in the name of compromise? Did we elect them to abandon what they told us were core values, or were they sent to Washington to represent those beliefs for us? How are we to trust them in the future, or the very concept of our representative republic itself, if so many are willing to compromise in such a way? What is wrong after all with a little partisanship. 

In spite of what we have been told recently, partisanship is a part of this country's history. Since the Revolution, this country has reveled and suffered through partisan debate. Many did not want to make the break with Britain in the first place, even as battles were being fought. After winning our freedom, many did not want to replace the originally passed Articles of Confederation with the stronger federal government of The Constitution. 

That founding document in turn could not be officially ratified by the States without a serious partisan debate over the addition of the Bill of Rights. And after all the dust had cleared, the Hamiltonians (followers of Alexander Hamilton) and the Jeffersonians (followers of Thomas Jefferson) bitterly debated what they considered at the time to be the encroachment of the federal government into areas that it had no business for decades afterward. Why then should we be surprised that Federalists and Statists continue to debate such issues in this country to this very day? 

This is not to say that one philosophy or the other should rule the day (much as I would sometimes wish it), nor is this an endorsement of a particular political party. It is however to say that bi-partisanship is not a good of itself, nor should it mean that each side can have something bad for the country if the other can have one in turn; a practice which sounds more like adding insult to injury than it does like meeting in the middle. As far as the general lack of bi-partisan thinking and compromise slowing the wheels of government down, my question would be: "What's wrong with that?" 

In spite of what they would like us to believe, the two major parties have proved themselves equally unable to govern and not so far apart in the direction they would like to steer the country. The argument now more often appears to be about the speed we are driving on an unsafe road rather than the direction we are going. 

The out-of-control ride is becoming increasingly more difficult to watch from the back seat. If such partisan wrangling slows the pace of government attempts at encroachment of personal freedom in some way, then I'm all for it. If standing by principles should in some way slow the runaway train that government has become in any way, it has my full support. 

Compromise is defined in as "a settlement of differences by mutual concession". It is also defined as "an endangering, especially of reputation". While I might be in favor of some of the former when required, I find that I am increasingly disgusted to discover far too much of the latter going on these days. Far from applauding such bi-partisan back slapping however, I would prefer a little partisan backbone in my elected officials.

1 comment:

Roland Hansen said...

Amigo Tim,
I also would like to see our elected officials show some backbone. I would rather have elected officials stand up and be counted for that in which they believe with an honesty of purpose rather than to be the jellyfish that gets us all nowhere fast.