Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Endangered Species

It has been endangered for a long time, a rare bird whose presence at once heralded the birth of a nation, but was hunted into near extinction. It has fled from its normal regions, to hide in dark nooks and crannies, trying to eke out a poor existence and somehow maintain itself until the day the environment changes. That bird is bipartisanship.

Many of us would not recognize it if we saw it, so rare has it become. We think we catch glimpses of it, but it as always at the edge of vision, not clear in sight and mind. We so badly want to see its return, but we are left with nothing more than its will-o'-the-wisp presence, and a lingering emptiness inside. We all continue to suffer for its absence, but many seem unwilling to do what must be done to allow it to flourish again.

And yet, there are signs... many would claim they are false signs, not bipartisanship but other less desirable members of the family: caving, collapsing, giving-in, etc. Those who hold their binoculars at the ready have seen it, though, and it most certainly is a fledgling of the bipartisan flock.

Many of you are angered by President Obama's seeming unwillingness to stand his ground. His "caving" on renewal of the Bush-era tax cuts, in exchange for extended unemployment insurance and payroll tax holidays, smacks of a loss of nerve in the face of Republican stalling and obstructionism. How could he?

He could, because, in doing so, he secured a lowering of taxes for the middle class, including a two percent reduction in Social Security deductions for a period of time, which would put more money in people's paychecks. He also ensured that those who have struggled for two years to find work and still cannot, get to keep their unemployment benefits. That is not "selling out," or "giving in"... that is governance. That is putting the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few.

No one would like better for our President to stand on principle than myself; I often want this man to morph into Abraham Lincoln or John Kennedy or Teddy Roosevelt. Yet, there comes a point when a President must look at his nation, from sea to shining sea, and do what he must to preserve it. He must compromise. He must put aside principle. He must be willing to walk to the other side of the table. If nothing else, it makes him look like the bigger man, a fact that will not be lost on anyone come election season.

The Republicans can slap each other on the back and count their political coin if it suits them, but they, too, have a responsibility to govern and govern effectively. They will not find the next two years very easy if they choose not to follow the President's example. 2012 is still two years away, and there is no way of knowing what may happen. Gloating now over this one "victory" is a prescription for disaster.

Principle does not put food on the table, nor clothes on the back, nor a roof over the head. It is all find to stand on principle, even as everything burns down around you. It is those who take action who are remembered as heroes, not those who stood by and followed their orders to the letter. If such a compromise secures a better future, albeit temporarily, for millions of Americans, then it is a victory, no matter how steep the price. The fact remains, that the Republicans, having campaigned for fiscal restrain and deficit reduction, have saddled themselves with the unenviable task of trying to justify hundreds of billions in lost revenue to Federal coffers, which will only drive up the deficit. When the time comes, and they are faced to make the hard choices, they might find themselves on the wrong end of the groups they courted to get elected. They only have two years to pull it off, and they cannot count on the help of Democrats, necessarily.

Call it what you will, but as of today, millions of Americans will have more money coming to them, and will be able to survive just a little bit longer, while the economy continues to improve. Let us laud the President for having the guts to stand there and take the slings and arrows of left and right, and still do what needed to be done to keep America rolling. In most times and places, that is called leadership.

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