Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Politics

Compromise

Both Justin and Pete (et al) below have good comments.  I am also enjoying all of this, and am trying mightily to learn from it.  I note in this WaPo story yesterday the last few paragraphs worth contemplating by any student of politics:

"So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health-care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for a hundred years," Obama began, "but because there was a provision in there that they didn't get that would have affected maybe a couple million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for a hundred million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise."

The result of such a inflexible approach, he said, is that "people will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people."

Defending his own tactics, he invoked his race, something he rarely does in political discussions.

"This country was founded on compromise. I couldn't go through the front door at this country's founding," he said. "And, you know, if we were really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn't have a union."


Categories > Politics

Discussions - 6 Comments

I think the most revealing thing of all in these comments from Obama has less to do with his invocation of race than it does the very small audience he is addressing. Who is he talking to with this stuff? Is he addressing the whole of the American people? Worse, does he believe that he is? He is completely taken up in conversation with his Left flank . . . that cannot be a good thing for him. They will not be chastised and the necessity of having to have this conversation in public makes him look weak even as it wins him few (and feeble, those) friends in the middle. He will not look reasonable--as he hopes. It will only reveal the nature of his allies; the extremes of his base. This will solidify the growing consensus that Obama is and always has been out of touch with the sentiments of the vast majority of the American people. It will harden hearts to him as he continues to set himself apart from the mainstream of conversation about America's current woes--because he reveals no understanding of her essential nature.

Even his attempt to be reasonable and talk sense to his crazy base--while showing a general desire to at least appear open to compromise--reveal his essential drift . . . he's still pushing! He's still ambivalent about the notion of government by consent. He only respects power. He really thinks that politics is about constant ramming and pushing and grinding on behalf of an ever expanding notion of equality. And he really thinks he and his friends have some special powers of divination when it comes to saying what that looks like right now.

But even so, he cannot say what equality IS. He cannot say what justice IS. Compromise, to him, is not about making solid progress toward living up to a defined and limited idea (e.g., Calvin Coolidge's assertion that if "All Men are Created Equal . . . that is final"). It is not about being careful to give up no ground that sacrifices the principle. There is no principle except action for him . . . move and push and expand the government in the name of equality and justice. But don't ask him to tell you what either of those two things actually are--always and everywhere or ideally. That is the great unknown. Barack Obama and the Left in American politics live for the struggle. It is an end in itself. You reward friends, punish enemies, and when you reach the pinnacle of power . . . your benevolence and your greatness allow you to define what justice looks like in your time. Awesome.

I can't make heads or tails of it, Julie. I think he considers his achievement with regard to health care a "victory to the American people," but beyond this not much else is clear.

If he is trying to praise the virtues of compromise, the case that he makes for it is weak. He seems to believe that his legislative accolades have been the result of compromise and justifies that particular strategy by pointing out that "this country was founded on compromise."

But if, according to Obama, compromise is both the foundation of American politics and was able to procure a health care victory -- however unappreciated -- why does he then point out that it was presumably compromise which would not have allowed him to "go through the front door"?

Obama seems conflicted. Compromise is not inherently good or bad, but must be evaluated within its immediate context. Obama says that compromise gave us Union and health care, but implies that it allowed slavery to endure as well as discrimination. I do not think he is purposefully taking the Lincolnian position that the Union must first survive if slavery will not.

Rather, I think Obama shares with his colleagues the tendency toward what he calls the "purist position," but has learned that such a position will not work for him -- and must swallow the bitter pill of compromise and furthermore learn to like it.

The fact is, the ONLY real compromise (i.e., compromise with the Right) he's had to make is on this latest tax deal, and his base (consisting of spoiled children) can't handle anything but COMPLETE power. Any compromise he made on Obamacare was brought about by the intransigence of his own party members.

Screw this guy and the stupid people who elected him. They aren't fit to run the country's political affairs. Indeed, I don't think they are fit to be Americans (in the sense that they fundamentally misunderstand what our grand experiment is all about). I for one would gladly pony up the tax revenue to buy all of them one-way tickets to the People's Republic of Europe (or Canada, if that is their preference).

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