Now that the Republicans seem to have gotten the Democrats off their higher taxes kick, the question is whether a minority of the House Republicans will refuse to pass the Boehner legislation that could lead to a deal that will spare the country a major economic disruption and spare the Republicans from losing the 2012 elections by being blamed – rightly or wrongly – for the disruptions.
Is the Boehner legislation the best legislation possible? Of course not! You don’t get your heart’s desire when you control only one house of Congress and face a presidential veto.
The most basic fact of life is that we can make our choices only among the alternatives actually available. It is not idealism to ignore the limits of one’s power. Nor is it selling out one’s principles to recognize those limits at a given time and place, and get the best deal possible under those conditions.
That still leaves the option of working toward getting a better deal later, when the odds are more in your favor.
There would not be a United States of America today if George Washington’s army had not retreated and retreated and retreated, in the face of an overwhelmingly more powerful British military force bent on annihilating Washington’s troops.
Later, when the conditions were right for attack, General Washington attacked. But he would have had nothing to attack with if he had wasted his troops in battles that would have wiped them out.
Similar principles apply in politics. As Edmund Burke said more than two centuries ago: “Preserving my principles unshaken, I reserve my activity for rational endeavors.”
What does “rational” mean? At its most basic, it means an ability to make a ratio, as with “rational numbers” in mathematics. More broadly, it means an ability to weigh one thing against another.
There are a lot of things to weigh against each other, not only as regards the economy, but also what the consequences to this nation would be to have Barack Obama get re-elected and go further down the dangerous path he has put us on, at home and abroad. Is it worth that risk to make a futile symbolic vote in Congress?
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