AMERICA WAS “FOUNDED ON COMPROMISE”?
Obama Ignores Truman: Rationalizing Tax Cuts & Cowardice
In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
Actions of the Democratic leadership over the past few years demonstrate a grim governmental deficit; not only in spending, but also in understanding. Repeated refusals by congressional leadership of the Democratic Party to firmly stand on foundational progressive principles have resulted in loss of rare opportunity and colossal failure to actually bring about truly meaningful protections for America against the moneyed interests who are gradually succeeding in buying the rights to human well-being.
The current congressional leadership of the Democratic Party has become the perfect example of failure in learning from history; their recent endeavors demonstrate virtually complete unawareness of the warning President Harry S. Truman issued in a speech nearly sixty years ago (1952). Harry S. Truman said:
“I've seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn't believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don't want a phony Democrat. If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don't want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign.
Given the results of the recent midterm elections, Truman’s words have a peculiarly haunting echoe down through the decades since he wandered the halls of the White House. He went on to say:
“We are getting a lot of suggestions to the effect that we ought to water down our platform and abandon parts of our program. These, my friends, are Trojan horse suggestions. I have been in politics for over 30 years, and I know what I am talking about, and I believe I know something about the business. One thing I am sure of: never, never throw away a winning program. This is so elementary that I suspect the people handing out this advice are not really well-wishers of the Democratic Party.
“More than that, I don't believe they have the best interests of the American people at heart. There is something more important involved in our program than simply the success of a political party.”
Address at the National Convention Banquet of the Americans for Democratic Action (May 17, 1952)
(All highlights mine)
Virtually all polls indicated that the majority of Obama’s supporters did not support his predisposition for “compromise” in granting the fiscally irresponsible tax breaks to the wealthiest 2% of Americans in Obama’s most recent surrender to his Republican masters. Obama’s pattern of capitulation to Republicans, in lockstep with other Blue Dogs in Congress, has become a destructive decay among progressives in America. Progressives must wonder if Obama is not a variety of “Trojan Horse” intentionally placed to create just such decay through deceptive infiltration like that of the infiltration of Troy via the original Trojan Horse.
The phrasing of the question made a difference:
Be that as it may, what I find equally disturbing about this lack of ability to learn from history is that, among voters, so many self-labeled and apparently party-loyal Democrats attempt to rationalize and become enablers of the phoniness, sightlessness and cowardice of the current congressional Democratic leadership. In addition, two defectors from the Democratic Party in Texas recently switched their loyalty (I use the word reluctantly – perhaps financial affiliation is more accurate), to the Republican Party of Texas.
“The people don’t want a phony Democrat.”
Truman puts the present-day Democratic Party conundrum into perfect perspective (I found it telling that he called politics “the business”). The equation is not complicated, but the enablers attempt to rationalize the phoniness, sightlessness and cowardice of the current Democratic leadership by fabricating complicated scenarios that supposedly justify, or at least excuse, the colossal failure that now characterizes the Democratic Party (except where and when the media spin it otherwise). Truman’s analogy of the Trojan horse is exact, definitive, although today the Trojan horse is known as the Blue Dog Coalition, to which Obama is closely aligned. A “Blue Dog Democrat” is “a Republican in Democratic clothing”, although they may be relatively “moderate” Republicans.
Fiscal Conservative/Social Progressive
Fiscal conservatism is a political term used to describe a fiscal policy that advocates avoiding deficit spending. Fiscal conservatives often consider reduction of overall government spending and national debt as well as ensuring balanced budget to be of paramount importance. Free trade, deregulation of the economy, lower taxes, and other conservative policies are also often but not necessarily affiliated with fiscal conservatism.
One major problem is that social equality, health and viability require that those who have more give more. Thus the progressive taxation that made America great during the era that today’s Republicans so fondly, even romantically, memorialize seems to indicate that fiscal conservatives’ anti-tax/anti-spend ideology contradicts the socially progressive characteristic to which Blue Dog Democrats lay claim.
The current Democratic Party has been infiltrated by Trojan horse politicians who promote conservative principles while self-labeling themselves as Democrats, which naturally diminishes progressive representation in Congress even when Democrats hold the White House and majorities in both chambers.
As a result, the recent mid-term elections revealed that many progressive voters have essentially abandoned the Democratic Party and with good reason; the Democratic Party no longer represents progressive principles. There are progressive Democrats, but the Party, as a whole, no longer represents progressives; it may be the lesser evil because it represents more moderate conservatives while the Republican Party represents radical conservatives, but if those elected under the Democratic banner consistently allow the Republican minority to control the debate and to rule the day, then there is no effectual difference between them.
The world has changed since Truman's day; but in what ways and how much? Perhaps the major changes lie in the further development of trends that were already present in that era, such as that about which Dwight Eisenhower warned. Eisenhower warned of corporate corruption combining with a military-industrial corporate model – the “military-industrial complex” – whose tentacles we now see reaching out across the globe; a business model that tragically robs our resources, human and financial, destroys the environment, and passes on all costs to those who are least able to compensate.
Regardless of such changes, human nature has not changed all that much, if at all. Politics must, naturally, react to changes in the world, but, in so doing, must not lose connection to human nature. After all, human nature is the foundational driving force for politics, the drive to survive combined with the recognition that survival requires cooperation.
“There is something more important involved in our program than simply the success of a political party.”
I am starting to wonder if we are becoming a nation of cowards who are simply afraid to speak the truth through our votes, such as those votes exist. I’m reminded of the words in the Declaration of Independence:
“…all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
When I criticize the Democratic Party in discussions with loyal Democrats, I consistently encounter the “lesser-of-two-evils argument” when discussing the current dilemma presented by our “two-party” political system. This lesser-of-two-evils argument is becoming less and less valid as the two political parties become more and more similar in the results they produce, notwithstanding the differences in their rhetoric. Historically, Democrats have represented the more progressive minds in society, but currently the Democrats are viewed as lesser-evil primarily because they retard the results produced by Republicans, meaning that while we continue in the same policy direction, we do so at a slower pace, although in recent years even this difference has diminished appreciably.
The problem with this lesser-of-two-evils argument is that in either case, faster or slower, the “evil” plainly arrives, just in different doses. Both scenarios, however, are a net loss. Think of an x-y plane in algebra:
Everything to the left of the y-axis and below the x-axis is a negative; -3 is less of a loss than -5, but both are a loss, as neither reflects progress to the positive side of the plane. As an example, eight years of the Reagan regime might equal -5; four years of George H.W. Bush equals -2.5; 8 years of the Clinton/Republican Congress equals -4; 8 years of Bush/Cheney equals -5; 2 years of Obama/Blue Dogs equals -2 … The net yield is negative18.5; no gain, and overall loss. Electing self-labeled Democrats who represent failed Republican policies only associates those failed policies with the Democratic Party.
And until we break away from the cycle of smaller and greater losses, the negative will continue to dominate and destroy America and, perhaps most of humanity if not, ultimately, all of humanity. As Truman points out, “There is something more important involved in our program than simply the success of a political party,” especially if that party merely represents a lesser dose, a milder version, of contemporary Republican radical conservatism.
America has survived a full thirty years of Reagan conservatism, running from Reagan in 1980 through the first two years of the Obama administration in 2010. Some things are worth fighting for, even if you lose the first few battles. If progressives must lose a few more battles in upcoming election cycles in order to change the nature of the war into something winnable, then that seems to me a more reasonable approach than continuing with the destructive status quo of stagnation and conservatism that continues to enslave average Americans and citizens of other countries around the world to the drive for more wealth of a fortunate few. Average Americans may be faced with a situation in which things must get worse so they can get better.
The tool available to us for making the needed changes – our electoral system – is broken, it no longer works. The first logical step, then, is to repair or replace that tool, or its broken parts, so that it will function again.
CHANGING THE NATURE OF THE WAR
If the current Democratic leadership doesn’t correct its direction in the next two years, then progressives who self-identify as Democrats must face a simple truth; we may need to lose a few upcoming battles in order to change the nature of the war so that the war becomes winnable.
Truman’s warning, his message, was this; if you abandon your principles, then you lose all chance of winning what you seek to win. It’s a hollow victory – nay, it’s a loss – when Democrats win elections and fail to uphold the principles that the voters elected them to uphold. This is Obama’s dilemma; he has abandoned progressive principles and in so doing has lost his most ardent supporters, without whom he will not be reelected. In the meantime, rather than accomplishing what he claimed as his goals, the reasons he was elected, he has decided that, as Truman’s Trojan horse put it, “…we ought to water down our platform and abandon parts of our program” – winning parts. And so progressives reminded Obama, as well as the other congressional Democratic leaders about the principles they have abandoned and about the costs of doing so, for which these leaders should be appreciative. Instead, we have Obama chastising Progressives for standing for their principles.
Obama calls Progressives “sanctimonious” and denounces a “purist position” inferring that such principles do not matter, that they are not worth making a stand. He then goes on to pervert history in such a fashion as would make Karl Rove, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and all the rest of the Bush regime proud. I want to take a look at some of his historical perversions.
Obama’s self-defense is based on his statement, “This country was founded on compromise.” Was it? Was America “founded on compromise”? The American colonists tried in vain to reason and compromise with the King of England and his corporate co-conspiritors on pricing and taxes. When such attempts failed, the colonists declared independence and went to war to found this country. Going to war does not fall within the realm of “compromise”, but, instead, results from a failure of compromise. In other examples, compromises with Native Americans resulted in one betrayal after another of treaties, which also led to wars in the name of greed and profit. No compromise there, either.
Obama goes on to say, “I couldn't go through the front door of this country's founding. And you know, if we were really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn't have a Union.”
Obama infers that compromise led to emancipation of African Americans. Is that the case? If memory serves, compromise failed, the Southern states decided to secede (declare independence like the original American colonies), which led to the American Civil War, and it was the result of that war that eventually created circumstances in which such emancipation could only begin. We are still fighting that war. This does not fit the definition of “compromise”.
Most recently, the Democrats in the Wisconsin State Legislature put the lie to Obama’s assertion about compromise – the majority of Americans support the union strikers and what they represent; not Republican oppression, not Obama’s predisposition for capitulation labeled compromise. This little band of defiant Democrats has reinvigorated the spirit on which America was founded, which is not the “compromise” of Obama. Fighting for what is “right” is what America was founded on, even if she has not always lived up to that spirit. Compromise?
Were the accomplishments Obama attributes to compromise truly the result of compromise, or were they the result of wars stemming from failure of compromise? I argue the latter, not the former. Obama is wrongly, and to my perception, spitefully, rewriting history in an Orwellian attempt to deceive, to mislead.
Obama states, “…we finally get health care for all Americans …” which is unequivocally false. He then trivializes the victims of this falsehood, as well as his own betrayal of the single-payer system he promised he would fight for, saying, “…but because there was a provision in there that they [Progressives] didn't get, that would have affected maybe a couple million people …” A couple million people? Per the CBO:
• Total uninsured in 2019 with no bill: 54 million
• Total uninsured in 2019 with Senate bill: 24
Obama gives us a number that is one twelfth of the actual number of “affected people”. Implicit in his statement is that those 24 million people are/were insignificant and not worth fighting for. I make that statement with a clear conscience because, as has been well documented, Obama forfeited this point BEFORE negotiations ever began. It is easy to recognize, and impossible to deny, the self-serving nature of Obama’s trivialization – nay, his total dismissal – of approximately 24 million Americans, especially considering that they were most certainly among his supporters.
Yet, in justifying this tax-cut deal, what number of Americans does Obama denote as being significant enough to surrender for – not fight, but surrender? “Two million Americans.” (Occurs at about 0.38 into the video)
Essentially, Obama is willing to stand up against his base in order to betray their principles but won’t stand up against Republicans to defend those principals. Obama also fails to mention that not a single Republican voted for this healthcare bill that he touts as a major accomplishment of compromise. In fact, in the final passage of the bill, there was no real compromise aside from congressional Democrats watering down their platform and abandoning parts of their program so they could pass the bill through “reconciliation”:
Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress settled on a strategy in which the compromises needed to align the two versions [of the healthcare bill] were stripped down to only those measures that fit within a budget reconciliation bill, which under Senate rules could not be filibustered, a move that paved the way for passage.
Being forced to resort to the procedure known as “reconciliation” refutes Obama’s assertion of “compromise”. Compromise: the definition infers mutual concessions; if one party capitulates because the other party won’t concede anything, it is not “compromise”.
And at the top of the current Republican agenda as they take control of the House of Representatives is the undoing of as much of that bill as possible, as well as blocking funding for as much of it as possible, now that they have a majority in the House of Representatives. This doesn’t fit the meaning of “compromise”. Obama’s unwillingness, or perhaps inability, to fight the tough fight is a frailty that may have pushed him to the desperation he exhibits in the behavioral examples I’ve presented and this bodes unfavorably for progressive developments in the near future.
Should we be grateful that Mr. Obama refused to stand up for the “maybe a couple million people” (24 million Americans) that will – not “might be” – affected?
If Obama had actually made a stand, a real stand on this, he might be permitted to make this argument, but he gave away his advantage before the “debate” (I use the word loosely) ever began. He doesn’t get to dismiss those 24 million Americans he betrayed so thoughtlessly, both before the negotiations began and in his recent statements, as “maybe a couple million people” and then use “two million Americans” as justification for the damage this Republican tax-cut deal will ultimately harvest; damage of which we are now seeing only the beginnings crop up around the country.
And let’s not forget about Obama’s cohorts in Congress; those who refused to hold the criminals of the previous regime accountable for their crimes, and have perpetuated those crimes. Is this compromise? Is this upon what America was founded? Despite a history checkered with criminality, it was upon a set of worthy principles and the willingness of a group of progressive thinkers that America was founded and Obama has, in company with his Blue Dogs and Republicans, betrayed those principles and, instead, emulated the historic criminality.
It is telling that when Obama finally truly stands up to someone, it is the progressive block of voters that supported him and elected him to whom he directs his ire.
Beginning in 2006 when Obama supported the FISA vote that absolved criminals of their criminality and when Pelosi, et al pronounced, after gaining a majority in the House of Representatives, the rule of law as being “off the table”, I and others have said that these non-representatives are complicit in the very right-wing anarchy Obama promised to change, the crimes he promised would be accounted for. Those of us who have taken the “sanctimonious purist” position have been blamed for the Democrats’ diminishing rise in Congress, blamed for presenting the very same warning Truman expressed nearly sixty years ago: “There is something more important involved in our program than simply the success of a political party.”
This is Harry S. Truman’s “sanctimonious purist” principle that Obama and the current congressional Democratic leadership have lost. If success of the political party overrides the well-being of the average American, then average Americans must abandon that political party. If average citizens continue an apparent prefernce “…to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed,” then changing the source of failure is an impossible task.
Given the events of the past two years, progressives and Democratic voters must organize in such a way as to pose a serious threat to the status-quo of the Democratic Party leadership; nothing else will adequately demand their attention. At the same time, a serious movement must be mounted toward making needed electoral systemic changes to repair the broken tool, the electoral system, because it is the only tool we have and if it’s not functional, we can’t do anything that must be done.