Compromise typically refers to resolving an impasse consisting of two parties or more in which each gives in from a little to a lot to achieve an agreement with which all sides can live.
Obama has during his two and a half years in office arguably used the word compromise more times than any human being in the history of the planet. As a former senator from Illinois at both the state and federal levels he is fond of comparing his efforts to those of the great Illinoisan Abraham Lincoln in his effort to save the union.
What we see is a tragic Washington dog and pony show mislabeled as democracy in action wherein Obama plays his role, keeping his cool and sounding like the voice of perpetual moderation. On the other side we see a Republican Party opposing Democratic president Obama, constantly alleging that he and his party stand too far to the left. Furthermore his profligate policies have brought America toward the dangerous precipice of bankruptcy.
The Tea Party has entered the scene as America's great lightning rod. Current proponents of its position include Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Joe Walsh. While Obama cites such opposition as evidence that Americans need to rally toward him along with his party, into the drama steps another role player. Acting comes so naturally to Speaker of the House John Boehner. He has so mastered the art that he can do something that would make many an accomplished Shakespearean performer envious -- that of crying with effortless spontaneity.
So all Boehner needs to do to fulfill the ongoing dog and pony show with faux gravitas is to play a role similar to that of Obama. He like Obama claims to be a force for compromise. Just as Obama can ask rhetorically "Would you prefer dealing with me or the Tea Party?" his current chief Republican counterpart in the drama seeks to convey the impression that he is a far more reasonable party with whom to deal than his strident freshmen, meaning ardent Tea Partiers.
While the aforementioned actors seek to instill team competition in the manner of football and baseball games, focusing on the parties involved, this strategy is intended to perform the function of a magician. A magician bestows the aura of magic, of doing the seeming impossible, by distracting an audience away from what is really happening. This the kind of sleight of hand representing itself as two party democracy employed by actors Obama and Boehner.
Any kind of reasonable two party compromise as exists in a representative democracy vanished when Obama refused to fight on the critical issue of expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Many of us stated at the time that he was giving away the store while he insisted that this was a necessary move made in the interest of compromise.
Not only did Obama turn his back on working class families to allow the Republicans to perpetuate a tragically cynical plutocracy in the name of "not raising taxes during tough economic times" as they pretended to be concerned about middle class job losses; there was more.
Obama violated a 2008 critical campaign pledge by allowing an extension of the Bush tax cuts, but there was more to come, all in the name of compromise. Obama in that same calm, let us reason together tone, violated more campaign pledges in the name of fallacious compromise that constituted full-fledged abdication from 2008 rhetoric when he agreed to put Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on the table.
Obama's propagandistic word gymnastics prove one basic point. He contorts the word compromise, invoking it in the reality of surrender. In doing so he moved to the right of positions taken by numerous twentieth century Republican presidents.
When John Boehner squeaked his deficit reduction plan through the House Friday by a 218-210 vote along party lines, knowing that it will be rejected in the Senate, he went into self-righteous mode. Boehner stressed the unreasonableness of Obama.
Oh yes, Obama the left wing Democrat! If Obama had visited a Democratic Convention or AFL-CIO conclave of the past and announced his acceptance of tax cuts for the rich and willingness to tamper with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, he would have been promptly hooted off the floor. That would have embodied his most benign fate.
Nobel Prize economist Paul Krugman hit the right note in his Friday New York Times column. Krugman labeled the Obama centrist argument as fraudulent, concluding that Republicans refused to sign on to a plan in which he threw traditional Democratic Party bread and butter issues in the tradition of FDR, HST, JFK, RFK, and LBJ under the bus.
All the while Obama keeps reciting his "compromise" mantra. As the saying goes, Mr. Obama, that dog will not hunt.