Deciding when to compromise should be easier than it is for a leader.  Should you give something you are against to get something you want?  Or should you stand on principle and refuse to compromise?  These classic questions for democratic leaders used to be rare, but they are becoming more common.

That is because the current Democratic president is confronted by a minority opposition party (soon to be majority in the House) that has adopted as its policy unified opposition to virtually all Democratic initiatives.  Against the standard press assumption regarding “polarization” in Washington, that has not been the policy of an opposition Democratic party many of whose leaders voted for the Iraq war and Bush tax cuts most of their party constituents were against.  Neither Presidents Carter, Clinton, nor Obama are or were far left or liberal (contrary to the ridiculous Fox rhetoric about socialists).

In the current compromise over taxes, Republicans did concede on unemployment compensation extensions in order to get tax cuts for the wealthy.  Faced with automatic tax increases (in truth, restoration of the rates before the “temporary” Bush tax cuts) and a willingness of Senate Republicans to blow up the economic ship of state, President Obama says he had no choice.  He sacrificed, however, the convictions of many in his party who believe with considerable evidence that the middle class is stagnate and wealth is flooding upward and that the political deck is stacked in favor of the golden rule (“them that has the gold make the rules”).

Because of this truth, I don’t like the compromise at all.  It isn’t fair and it isn’t just.  But neither is it fair or just to let unemployed people be Scrooged at Christmas.  If this makes you as angry as it does me, just remember who we should be angry at.

20 Responses to “Governing by Doing What’s Right”

  1. Pat Boice Says:

    “Let’s remember who to be angry at”….great advice to those on the left who are so angry and upset about compromises that they say they can’t vote for Obama again! This defies logic – who else will they vote for? There isn’t a political leader who has indicated a run for office presently on the horizon that could/would do a better job! “Remember who to be angry at”!!

  2. Fred Flintstone Says:

    The bottom line of this whole mess is that it is going to cost more money than the stimulus package, yet it will barely squeak any stimulus into the system. The tax breaks need to expire.

  3. Marco Franco Says:

    Dear Gary, your article clearly illustrates the perennial ” between a rock and a hard place” the president finds himself in , the question is why, I adventure to say that partially is due to the unprincipled position of many legislators particularly Democrats who appear to be concerned with nothing else than to keep their seats at any cost rather than finding pragmatic ways to do their jobs on behalf of the American people;as to de Republicans, they can claim they are following their principles to the bank which is not surprising because greed and cruelty is their definition of integrity and christianity.
    The president, for some, has abdicated his principles and strong position on some issues, to me he is doing what any stasteman should do under the circunstances, unless we want him to advocate or impose undemocratic means and even though Bush did it that is not the way this nation should be governend ever again.

  4. wordsonfire Says:

    Thank you. Good point. Remember to be angry at!

  5. Frank Casanova Says:

    You may be right Sen.Hart, however the Obama Administration as done a terrible, terrible job of explaining to the American public exactly what you are saying. That major goof in communications has damaged his standing with his base…perhaps permanently, and hopefully not fatally. I can’t begin to explain the let-down I feel as an Obama supporter. That was just bad bad PR.

  6. Morgan64 Says:

    Obama’s catering to the Republican camp is no longer an anomaly, it is the norm. Why? Similar to what Clinton did in his bid for a second term, he’s ramping up his appeal to the “Far Right” to ensure re-election. Whereas in his pursuit of a second term,Clinton depressed benefits to the poor and unemployed with his “Welfare Reform” and built more prisons through his “Tough on Crime” campaign, Obama is courting the favor of the GOP by prolonging the war in Ahghanistan – let’s help our defense contractors -, cutting social programs (read Deficit Commission) and undermining economic recovery by promoting extension of ALL the Bush tax cuts. I’m sure the ink is already dry on those 2012 bumper stickers.

  7. Jim Engelking Says:

    I don’t like it either, Gary, but unlike you, I took a position. I backed our President. I believe it is inappropriate and unfair to criticise without offering a solution. Not one that requires a blank slate and unlimited time and resources, nor turning back the clock, but accepts the current reality. So, how would you vote today as a sitting Senator?

  8. Gary Hart Says:

    In response to Mr. Engelking, I’m not sure what the reference to “unlike you, I took a position” is, but the answer to the question, contained pretty clearly in the blog, is that the President did what he had to do–compromise–and had I a vote, it would be in favor.

  9. Jerry Engelbach Says:

    Some commenters have had trouble understanding what you meant by “who to be angry at” because it’s open to interpretation. Morgan64 got it right.

    The GOP is the enemy and Obama is the general who refused to fight. Do we waste time railing at the bad guys or do we sack the general in favor of a real leader? McClellan vs. Grant comes to mind.

    My anger would be at Obama, except that I never expected him to be anything but a compromiser. The Democrats cannot save the United States. The only force capable of doing so is organized labor, which has been reluctant to act. Progress has been crippled in the United States by the lack of a labor party.

    It’s ridiculopus to compare the disadvantage of one missed Christmas for the unemployed with the far greater disadvantage of their complete immiseration down the road when thanks to the current rotten deal Social Security and Medicare will be raided. There’s no diolemma at all; only the fact of a very bad sellout of the future of the working class.

  10. Christo Gilberti Says:

    Do we really think that the Repubs would let unemployment insurance for millions expire for long? I say call their bluff. I know it would be hard on the long-term unemployed, but the country needs to confront what it did when it elected 60+ new Repubs to the House; that there are consequences.

  11. Jim Engelking Says:

    I went back and reread your blog, Gary, and in it you stated your anger, but did not state your position, so I inquired. It turned out to be the same as mine, which is what I thought it would be. Thanks for responding.

    It’s tough being the President, especially when the Congressional members of your own party fail to fully support legislating your agenda in an expeditious manner, and allow the political capital won in 2008 to be dissipated. And now it is much tougher, so we will see whether Democrats can rally and work with political opponents who are committed to their failure. If not, the nation will suffer, all of us but the very rich, and so will Democrats, who are unable to find a message that resonates with angry, fearful, disaffected voters.

    It is up to us to communicate clearly with our elected federal representatives, so that they know what we expect from them.

  12. Bobby Drummond Says:

    RECONCILIATION

    President Obama doesn’t have to give the farm away. The House passed the bill to extend the tax cuts for people making less than 200,000. All the Senate has to do is use RECONCILIATION. This is how GW got it approved in 2001 and 2003 so the Democrats need to manup and do the same. I think the President is in such a hurry to compromise with the Republicans that they are overlooking the sensible thing to do. It’s my understanding that RECONCILIATION can be used to get the unemployment extension passed too. It would sure save our deficit a little strain and I believe all the Democrats would be happy by doing that. It’s in our country’s best interest.

  13. John Montgomery Says:

    On remembering who to be angry at; The Repubs; they are in Lock step out of fear of retribution by their leadership and their job security, as apposed to public service. Why else would their only goal for progress be to make Obama a one term president and the United States a 2nd class nation, except to gain short term profits while the rest of us sink, based on a failed course of actions by the past administrations follies.

    Yes, compromise is is a good quality in a statesman, but early capitulation in a fight spells consistant defeat. Obama must become more of a fighter and be firm on his course of action and what he wants to accomplish.

    He should be using RECONCILIATION to just GET IT DONE!

  14. Gary Hart: Governing by Doing What’s Right | Says:

    [...] comment, please visit Senator Hart’s blog at: http://www.mattersofprinciple.com GA_googleFillSlot("AfterArticle_468x60"); Posted in: DENVER ← Previous Post Next Post [...]

  15. R.W. Sanders Says:

    No one can be against compromise. One must compromise in order to live day to day. What I oppose is the way Obama has chosen to compromise. Our side gives up way more than the other. It is a lousy compromise. We should never reduce social security tax. That only opens the door to further abuses. Why is it, that social security must become part of every conversation. Income tax has nothing to do with social security, yet it is included in the “compromise”? Why? And why do we need to “get” something in order to extend unemployment benefits? Considering the circumstances, isn’t that simply the right thing to do? We don’t have enough revenue to buy everything we want, so we must create more. Creating more tax revenue by reducing taxes just seems illogical. We need complete tax reform. And we need to forget trying to raid social security. Allow our elders to grow old with dignity.

  16. Debbie Lackowitz Says:

    Hey. Just wanted to ‘weigh in’. To begin, I totally think this ‘deal’ is nothing but wrong. Gary, you would vote in favor? Why? That’s just capitulating. And it doesn’t get us anywhere. Not really. It just puts the Republicans in a stronger place. Is that what you want to do for 2012? I think not. I read there’s vast support for the ‘deal’. I honestly don’t think those that weighed in supporting really understood what they were giving their support to. And a huge problem is in how this narrative was framed. The Obama administration (again) did NOT explain themselves very well. Chose not to. And then was peaked at US for being angry! And I DO know where to place my anger. Republicans, of course. But then there’s FOX and of course their contributors. Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, and of course Glenn Beck! And don’t forget Sean Hannity and Bill-O. Rush Limbaugh is in a league by himself! So while I may have my differences with President Obama, he HAS done a good job and quite frankly the alternatives are unacceptable. I do question if with this ‘deal’ he has SO alienated his progressive/liberal supporters that they just might go for what I saw today on the net, NO LABEL. Its a conglomeration of really all sides who are trying to break the gridlock. Sounds interesting to me….

  17. Nancy Lee Says:

    I hate the compromise. I cannot see how it will help in the short term or long term. Tax breaks don’t produce jobs. Demand produces jobs. However, consumers no longer buy American products; that boat has floated over to Asia. Until we can actually build things in this country, our economy will suffer. I don’t understand why all Obama got out of this was an extension of unemployment benefits. The majority of the voters, before the deal, claimed that they did not support continuation of the Bush tax breaks for the upper 2%. Obama just doesn’t know how to stand up for the principles he promoted while campaigning for president. The Republicans are beyond any claims to working for the common good.

  18. Barry Duncan Says:

    Maybe I’ve missed something, but haven’t the Democrats run Congress for the past four years? I wonder why they haven’t done something on this before now.

  19. steve harvey Says:

    I believe in one thing, and one thing only: We should all do what we consider to be most effective for moving our nation and world in the direction of Reason and Goodwill, and we should each invest a great deal of time, effort, and humility in the enterprise of making our considered opinion on that matter as sound as it can be. Sometimes it means compromise, and sometimes it doesn´t. And sometimes it means knowing that you don´t know, and deferring to people you fought to put into office who have more information and considerable skills, and know that they have to play a very complex strategic game.

    Here is the overall strategy I think we, as grass-roots activists, should pursue, to do more to support the efforts of those we put into office than simply insisting we could have done their job better than they can: “A Proposal: The Politics of Kindness” (http://coloradoconfluence.com/?page_id=1215).

    And, in honor of the season, here´s “A Political Christmas Carol”: http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=1624. Happy Holidays, Everyone.

  20. Donald Woods Says:

    I’m 68 now Gary Hart, I’m the king of the southern counterfeiters, bio listed in marquis who’s who in america. From the discerning perceptions of an old school counterfeiter, I’ve always admired your thoughts. I recall you saying if america wanted to retire out debt, all we had to do was sell off 10% of our assets I believe that was on Larry Kings show back in the ninties era?

    Now you know all this U.S. currency is counterfeit Gary, always has been, the federal reserve is a private corporation, as long as we got the mightiest military the world has even known, and all these high tech weapons, who’s to stop us from ruleing the world, the bibles are the lie, depopulation control will never happen, cus the people will rise up, when the time comes…

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