How do we keep ending up in this situation?
Yet another should-be reasonable discussion on how to solve one of the many problems facing our country hijacked by Reactionary extremists willing to sacrifice our well-being for their beliefs. And facing them a President who has made it quite clear to his Reactionary opponents that when push comes to shove he is willing to jettison reason and consider any counter-productive compromise to get a deal done.
Why? Why does the President continue to rewarded his opponents intransigence with compromise, reinforcing their “wait for him to give in” strategy?
Many people argue that this is the President simply showing his true conservative colors. (He is, after all, proving to be the least successful Republican President of recent history.) Others say it shows his inexperience, his inability to grasp that those who say they oppose him actually oppose him, and still others that it is a symptom of some pitiful, pathological need for conflict avoidance on Obama’s part.
I think the problem may be that Obama has a pathological need to be the Adult In The Room.
Now I’m not saying that in itself acting like an adult is bad, but as my wife always says, “Crazy trumps smart.” A well informed, reasonable person is always at a disadvantage when dealing with someone who has discarded reason for emotion. Or, in the case of the President, when dealing with those who have abandoned rationality for religion. And make no mistake about it, the President at best is caught in that worst of all possible situations: trying to argue someone out of their Faith. This is a war between Reason and Religion - the religion of the Holy Tax Cut. That is why Reason makes no headway - facts, figures, history - all make no impression on those of Faith. You can’t reason someone out of their faith.
A friend of mine - a very savvy political observer - until recently believed that the question of raising the Debt Ceiling was going to be the Waterloo of the Tea Party Reactionaries in Congress. Damned if they did as traitors to the cause, damned if they didn’t for the suffering they would cause. But my friend overlooked one point - this is not politics, it’s religion, and the True Believers of the Holy Tax Cut, like the zealots of any faith, would rather see their country crumble and tens of millions suffer than compromise on the basic principals of their Faith; Government Programs are the cause of economic hardship, and that taxes are a tyrannical burden on free citizens. For them this is Holy Writ, and any compromise of these truths is unthinkable heresy. Evidence? They have and need none, because for them it is simply, unassailably, true. It’s like the Shroud of Turin - all the evidence proves that it is a medieval creation, but for the True Believers it simply is the shroud of Christ because they believe it is.
And, like most religions, this faith allows for the absolute demonization of the opponents. “If God be on our side, who could be against us?” The very fact that you oppose their Faith makes you not a political opponent, but a heretic, an apostate, someone who has abandoned God’s ( or in this case Grover Norquist’s) word. Deny them and you are casting yourself into the Wilderness as an enemy of Truth - and you are therefore fair game.
And against this zealotry the President has tried to use Reason. Reason always wants to consider the other side, respect the opponent. His problem in this situation (and believe me, this guy has enough self-created problems already) is that he’s treating his opponents like reasonable colleagues, and not like the Westboro Baptist Church of government that they are. He is so busy trying to be reasonable that he’s totally missed that these Reactionary zealots would rather see the United States crash and burn than exists in a way their Faith tells them is wrong, they would rather see devastation than abundance if that abundance was the fruit of Government - which their faith tells them is evil.
This is why the President loses each battle of wills: his Reactionary opponents are willing to go down fighting - and take the rest of the country with them - in the name of Their Cause, whereas the President is trying to keep the debate civil, and placate the rowdy to get them back to the table. He’s trying to be the adult in the room, but by appearing spineless he has encouraged the bullies, and by lacking the courage of his professed convictions he has only inspired distain among those willing to fight for their Religion - no matter how wrong it is.