Compromise vs Idealism

This week, President Obama announced that he’d reached a compromise with Republicans on the Bush tax cuts.  The current tax rate will remain the same for at least 2 more years.  In return, the Republicans agreed to a 13 month extension of emergency unemployment benefits.  As far as compromises go, it’s not great, but it’s not bad either.  I mean, as my father said today as we discussed it, unemployment benefits should be extended for 2 years if the tax cuts are going to last that long.  But, you take what you can get.  Personally, I’m surprised the Republicans gave as much as they did.  I fully expect them, once ensconced in power to tell the President to “suck it” on almost everything he tries to do until the elections in 2012.  But, the lack of cooperation in Washington isn’t on my list tonight.  What is, is the response of some of the President’s “supporters”.

The far left, which has an inordinate amount of power in the Democratic Party, has been unhappy with President Obama for a while.  The basic problem is that they feel he’s not done enough.  One group, and one man in particular, have been on my mind for quite a while and their response to this compromise has pushed them to the forefront once again.  The man is Jim Wallis and the group is the folks at Soujourners magazine.  On Tuesday, the day after the President announced the deal, Wallis wrote on his God’s Politics blog that Obama should have fought harder and Jennifer Kottler weighed in the estate tax (or lack of it).  Both of them say that this is class warfare against everyone but the wealthy and these tax breaks need to go away whatever the cost.  Tell you what, why don’t you guys ask those folks who are out of work and don’t see that changing any time soon if they’d rather the President held the line on the tax cuts or if they like the current deal.  You know, the one that’s going to help them keep their families going a little longer.  Maybe even long enough for them to find work.  Where do you think they come down on this one?

Don’t get me wrong, I admire Wallis and the people at Sojourners.  I love their dedication to social justice and the fact that they’re living out their faith the best way they know how.  The only problem I have is that they’re too political.  And, this episode is an example of why religion and politics don’t mix well.  Politics is, perhaps, one the most cynical and pragmatic exercises on the planet.  It’s also one of the nastiest, dirtiest, corrupting things a person can be involved in.  Christianity (when practiced correctly) is just the opposite.  It’s all about taking the high road and doing what’s right regardless of the cost, while politics is about doing what’s necessary to get things done.  Both are needed aspects of our society, they’re just not compatible ones.

Should Obama have fought harder and possibly gotten a deal that would have extended unemployment benefits and rescinded the tax cuts for the ultra-rich?  Maybe; and, in a perfect world he might have.  Was that ever in the cards in this imperfect, broken world we live in?  I seriously doubt it.