I advocate a semi-revolution.
The trouble with a total revolution
(Ask any reputable Rosicrucian)
Is that it brings the same class up on top.
Executives of skillful execution
Will therefore plan to go halfway and stop.
Robert Frost was a crusty old codger, who presented the country with one of its most poignant poetic moments 50 years ago this month. Delivering a commissioned poem at John Kennedy's inauguration (1961), the cold winter sunlight in Washington reflecting off the white paper fluttering in his hands, his old eyes couldn't read it — so he just stopped, paused and recited his famous short poem that he knew by heart: The land was ours before we were the land's...
Frost was naturally conservative, but would have detested the take-no-prisoners stance of the Boehner/McConnell-led party. In the past two years, the Republicans have stood strongly together because they knew who their enemy was: Barack Hussein Obama. Not Iran. Not poverty. They opposed even ideas that would help business — the stimulus, unemployment insurance, the Dream Act — in order to deny Obama any legislative successes.
This scorched-earth policy worked up through the fall election, but the Republican surge had the unintended consequence of 1) stimulating Obama — not to mention Jon Stewart — to greater heights of persuasion, and 2) freeing a few Republicans to break ranks and vote their consciences (either because they were leaving office, or were afraid of what the new Tea Party members would do in January). Suddenly, like a Christmas miracle, the lame-duck Congress threw away its crutches and waddled into hot water.
This resulted in the renewal of the Bush tax cuts with "jobless benefits" added, the repeal of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, passage of the "New Start" nuclear treaty with Russia, an important and previously blocked "Food Safety Bill" and the "9/11 Health Care and Compensation Act," among others: an amazing feat. We've been at Chinese restaurants where the Peking duck took almost that long.
Obama endured a lot of heat from the left by agreeing to leave the tax cuts for the wealthy (including the ugly estate tax) in the package, but it looks now as if that was the linchpin that swung the door open for all that followed. Everyone knows Obama was against these taxes but thought this the best deal he could get — a real compromise. This will turn out to be brilliant if 1) the tax breaks do stimulate the economy, and 2) in 2012, when they come up again, the voters' outrage helps him repeal them. We shall see. In any case, throughout the turmoil, the president remained calm, thoughtful — presidential — instead of emulating the strident bullies barking at him from all sides.
The Democrats have better ideas — the Iraq War and the recession were the result of two popular Republican ideas: preemptive strikes and deregulation (Republicans still seem to like them!). But for their own part, the Dems sometimes lose sight of the long view, which can only be attained on the battlefield of practical politics.
For example, Ralph Nader has good ideas, ideas that would support most of the Democrats' policies — but when he ran in 2000 he showed a recklessness whose end result was George Bush, the war and the crash. Nader is right when he points out that big business funds both parties far too much to be healthy — but he's wrong when he implies (as he did with Bush/Gore, and when Obama okayed the tax cuts) that the parties are the same: "Tweedledee and Tweedledum," he said. They are not. Not by a long shot.
Obama should keep in mind that Nader's a loose cannon, but still on his side, as is the "extreme" left. He should save his best shots for the upcoming debates. The enemy isn't the left or the right, but ignorance, illness and poverty.
In the beginning of this New Year, Americans should lift their sights toward 2012. Republicans should begin to consider whether they really want Palin, Gingrich, Huckabee, Romney or Rand Paul heading their hunting party, and Democrats should decide whether to re-tap Obama, who hasn't been fierce enough for many tastes.
Old Robert Frost, at any rate, would have approved of this late hint of bi-partisan compromise. Frost once said, "My aim in life is to hold my own with whatever's going. Not against: with." Though the compromise wasn't the best possible outcome, because of it — with our ally Russia, with our gay soldiers, with the unemployed, with food shoppers, with all of us taxpayers — we've dodged another bullet. Onward into 2011!
Yes, revolutions are the only salves,
But they're one thing that should be done by halves.
—Both quotes from "A Semi-Revolution" by Robert Frost (1874-1963)
—St. Petersburg Poet Laureate Peter Meinke will read at Eckerd College on Jan. 17th at 7:30 pm.