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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Left-Wing Conservative: Hooray for Horse-Trading!

The recent "Fiscal Cliff" negotiations in Congress put me in mind of what types of politicians are the best.

Horse-Traders.

I don't mean folks who will say anything to get elected. I mean the folks who have strong core political values while also being "Someone With Whom Business Can Be Done".

A friend of mine involved in local and state politics (I'll call him "Sammy") predicted several days ago that the "Fiscal Cliff" negotiations would not conclude until after we went "over the cliff" i.e. after the first of the year.

Sammy opined that the delay was calculated to protect those GOP congressmen who fear a Tea Party primary challenge from the right-wing of their own party. Such challenges from the right-flank had felled several moderate Republican Senators and Representatives over the last few years.  

Sammy explained that at 12:01am on January 1st, the Bush tax cuts technically expired, and therefore taxes automatically increased. So any vote on a law after that time to restore the Bush tax cuts for the middle class would technically be a tax decrease.  Therefore, those skittish GOP Congressmen could, when running for re-election, later claim to have voted to "reduce taxes for 99% of Americans", and avoid being accused of raising taxes (except on the well-to-do).

And Sammy was spot-on.

Both the House and Senate separately voted on the deal a few hours after the midnight deadline. So a little horse-trading on timing of passage of the law was endured so that some GOP congressmen in very right-wing districts could more easily keep their jobs.

So be it.

After a long bout with high-mindedness I've come to believe that the most basic function of democracy is the non-violent, peaceful selection and replacement of leaders.

Not the stuff of soaring rhetoric, but when you consider how many countries there are where change of leadership is determined by who has power over the army or the secret police, its importance cannot be overemphasized. When democracy works best, we are able to keep our "best and brightest" scheming wheeler-dealers on their toes, with good policy being a side effect of same.

With apologies to Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third Man, in the 20th Century we had politicians up to their ears in scheming, back-room deals, and horse-trading, but they gave us roads, bridges, dams, Social Security, The Civil Rights Act, defeated Hitler and the Soviet Union, and put man on the moon. In the 21st Century we have ideologically pure, incorruptible politicians to whom compromise is a sin. And what have they given us? The soundbite.

The obligation is on us citizens of the polis  to stay well-informed, engage in lively discussion of matters of the day, and share the outcome of  our discussions with our elected representatives. That way, they can make an educated decision about what they need to do to attain, or keep, their desired office.

And if we keep up our end, business can, indeed, be done.


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This post builds on some ideas in an earlier post titled  "I Fell Off the Wagon"


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