Compromise vs Idealism

December 10, 2010


This week, President Obama announced that he’d reached a compromise with Republicans on the Bush tax cuts.  The current tax rate will remain the same for at least 2 more years.  In return, the Republicans agreed to a 13 month extension of emergency unemployment benefits.  As far as compromises go, it’s not great, but it’s not bad either.  I mean, as my father said today as we discussed it, unemployment benefits should be extended for 2 years if the tax cuts are going to last that long.  But, you take what you can get.  Personally, I’m surprised the Republicans gave as much as they did.  I fully expect them, once ensconced in power to tell the President to “suck it” on almost everything he tries to do until the elections in 2012.  But, the lack of cooperation in Washington isn’t on my list tonight.  What is, is the response of some of the President’s “supporters”.

The far left, which has an inordinate amount of power in the Democratic Party, has been unhappy with President Obama for a while.  The basic problem is that they feel he’s not done enough.  One group, and one man in particular, have been on my mind for quite a while and their response to this compromise has pushed them to the forefront once again.  The man is Jim Wallis and the group is the folks at Soujourners magazine.  On Tuesday, the day after the President announced the deal, Wallis wrote on his God’s Politics blog that Obama should have fought harder and Jennifer Kottler weighed in the estate tax (or lack of it).  Both of them say that this is class warfare against everyone but the wealthy and these tax breaks need to go away whatever the cost.  Tell you what, why don’t you guys ask those folks who are out of work and don’t see that changing any time soon if they’d rather the President held the line on the tax cuts or if they like the current deal.  You know, the one that’s going to help them keep their families going a little longer.  Maybe even long enough for them to find work.  Where do you think they come down on this one?

Don’t get me wrong, I admire Wallis and the people at Sojourners.  I love their dedication to social justice and the fact that they’re living out their faith the best way they know how.  The only problem I have is that they’re too political.  And, this episode is an example of why religion and politics don’t mix well.  Politics is, perhaps, one the most cynical and pragmatic exercises on the planet.  It’s also one of the nastiest, dirtiest, corrupting things a person can be involved in.  Christianity (when practiced correctly) is just the opposite.  It’s all about taking the high road and doing what’s right regardless of the cost, while politics is about doing what’s necessary to get things done.  Both are needed aspects of our society, they’re just not compatible ones.

Should Obama have fought harder and possibly gotten a deal that would have extended unemployment benefits and rescinded the tax cuts for the ultra-rich?  Maybe; and, in a perfect world he might have.  Was that ever in the cards in this imperfect, broken world we live in?  I seriously doubt it.

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3 Responses to “Compromise vs Idealism”

  1. Who is this “far left” with “an inordinate amount of power in the Democratic Party” I keep hearing about?

    I appreciate your point of view on this topic, agree with a lot of it even, but as someone who self-identifies as a Leftist, suffice it to say, I don’t get a heck of a lot of representation. Certainly nothing remotely in the neighborhood of “inordinate”.

    • fireboy48 said

      So, you agree with some of the more strident voices who are upset with the President for making this deal? You think over-the-top comments and demonization of anyone who disagrees with you (happens on both sides of the aisle) are the way things should work? Do you think Michael Moore is the greatest documentary film-maker ever and is right on the money each and every time? This is representative of the far left I was talking about. Basically, a mirror image of the far right.

  2. No, I’m saying that people who think that sort of thing have very, VERY, little sway within the Democratic Party generally, and far less with the actual leadership. The same way hard-working rural folks who vote Republican don’t get much meaningful representation from their party. Lip service, yes, POLICY, no. And to the original point, I’d argue that far-Right Republicans (as much as they have a legitimate right to complain) get FAR more traction in their party than I do in “mine”.

    Both parties have shifted so far to the right over the last forty years that Nixon’s record reads like a modern model Democrat! To call anyone in the current congress leftist is downright absurd.

    As for where I sit personally (as your de-facto representative of “extreme” Leftism), I’m somewhere between “somewhat” and “moderately” upset re: the tax deal. (Not “extremely”). If you want to see what gets me inflamed, let’s talk about endless war, the erosion of civil liberties, the drug wars, the prison system as a private profit center, the gutting of funds for the EPA and SEC…

    Most lefties I know can take Moore or leave him. He’s an entertainer. Demonization of those who disagree is, as you point out, not exclusive to the playbook of either camp. However, I feel compelled to point out that, by definition, Conservatives are less interested in considering new points of view. That can be an asset or a liability, just as is the cliche Left habit of holding all points of view in equal esteem (no matter how inane).

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