A Failure of Political Skill

Democracy may not be perfect, but it is the best form of government man has come up with to manage a free market, capitalist society. However, in order for a democracy to work its many factions need to have the requisite political skill to compromise in order to get things done.

In the U.S. this must take the form of Democrats working with Republicans. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of our recent polarizing climate is that many on both sides now seem to value ideological purity more than they do the country as a whole. Politics, always an endevour synonymous with a contact sport has seemingly become nothing more than sport to a large number of its participants.

The problem is, this is not a game. And the loser doesn’t get to go play golf in the off-season.

Neither political party holds the high ground right now either. The Democrats, united by their dislike of former President Bush have solidified into an ultra-liberal, semi-socialistic party. For their part, the Republicans have become so afraid of the Tea Party faction that they dare not do anything that even has the faint glimmer of moderation.

The solution comes back to what this project is all about- virtue. The stunning lack of which is best illustrated by looking at the recent failure of the grand compromise on the debt ceiling. For those who have not been following the debate, here is the issue in a nutshell.

Administration officials say the country needs to raise its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling to stop a default on loan obligations, and Republicans want spending cuts in order for them to cooperate. Obama says that in return, he wants new taxes to combine with the cuts to reduce the debt by $4 trillion over the next 10-12 years.

The taxes he has in mind are of course the much talked about Bush tax cuts for those making over $250k. Obama and Speaker Boehner were basically in agreement. This was the opportunity to do something truly big and far reaching. Hell, by the end of their golf-outing negotiations Obama was even willing to put entitlements on the cutting block.

Think about that for a minute, for raising taxes on those who could probably handle it anyway, the GOP was going to be able to take a huge bite out of government spending. To think that we could dig our way out of this debt hole without any pain is folly ~ this was as good a deal as either side was likely to get. Trillions in cuts and modest tax raises.

Then the rank and file on both sides shot it down. No way can we cut into Medicare! NO new taxes!
So, how does virtue come into play you ask?

Neither party, apparently aside from the president and speaker, had the fortitude, or courage, to do what was prudent, or necessary.  Now I will admit I have no insider knowledge here. Maybe there were others willing to put aside short term political gain and do what clearly needs to be done for the nation as a whole. But if so, they have not been very vocal. And the leaders of each party, Obama and Boehner, have to take the blame for that as well. Leaders can only be leaders if people are willing to follow them.

The point remains that until we have people of strength, men and women of virtue in places of power, we will continue to simple play games with our collective future. Real democracy needs real political skill.  Something to think long and hard about as we enter the next election cycle.