Monday, July 25, 2011

The debtonators are wimps

Inside every positional political debate is the dilemma: Do I want to (a) pick up points with my base or do I want (b) success in moving our society forward? When the answer is (a) we see what is happening now. Digging in and digging down, hitting bottom--and then looking for a way to blast through and keep digging down. It is a failure for society but those in the deep hole together are incapable of climbing out so they blame the other ones digging too.

'Profiles in pusillanimity' is the title of their political biography. They stay with their base, refusing to evolve even when it might mean success for everyone. They would actually choose lose-lose in order to avoid a win-win, because when there is a win of any kind for the other side it means they are cast as collaborators, compromisers, sellouts and afraid to stand on principle. There is nothing wrong and everything right with standing on principle, but that requires a maturation that can separate principles from particularist positional irrelevancies. It also takes the courage to work with those with whom you often and stridently disagree when it comes to the good of your people. Chaining it all to positional stubbornness is a suicide pact. A profile in courage is of someone who dares to act from a win-win place even when that means giving something to the opponent, because that is normally necessary in order to move forward.

The ethical art in all this is to negotiate a win-win that doesn't violate real principles. "No new taxes" is not a principle. It is a position. What is at principled stake is the welfare of long-suffering working people whose tax burdens are contributing to their inability to function for the well being of their families. Negotiating improvement for them is a wide-ranging discussion, not limited to the Boehner bumpersticker mentality that cuts off dialog just when it's needed most.

So Obama has lost patience. Who knows? Perhaps he'll regain his footing. But in the end at least the American people should know that there are smarter, more creative ways to run a government, an economy, and a society.

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