Free Markets, Free People
Obama: "I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises" Me: “As long as you let him define what a compromise is”
Among the various annoying sophistries of the left, their attempt to re-define the term “compromise” is high on my list.
If I’m sitting in Nashville on I-40 and I want to go to Memphis, and I’m trying to share transportation with someone who wants to go to Knoxville, there isn’t much room for compromise. Standing still is a better choice than any option that takes me further from my goal.
But the left don’t want us to look at it that way. They insist on setting a ground rule that some sort of movement in their direction is a sine qua non.
Oh, sure, they’ll alter non-essential details. “Well, if you insist, we can take Highway 70 instead of I-40. That’s a real sacrifice on our part, because it’s a scenic route and a lot slower. But, in the spirit of compromise, we’ll do that. Now, why won’t you go along with that? You’re just inflexible. Don’t you see we need to compromise and come to an agreement here? We have to do something!”
It does no good to point out that the exact highway doesn’t matter – it’s the goal I don’t agree with. And that doing nothing is preferred to taking even one more step in their preferred direction.
This is the spirit with which Obama claims he’s willing to compromise in an interview with the AP (which I saw via Ace of Spades). After spending most of his time bashing Romney for his “extreme” views, Obama came out with his faux-reasonable, “why can’t we all get along” schtick:
If Republicans are willing, Obama said, "I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises" that could even rankle his own party. But he did not get specific.
I’ll bet he didn’t get specific. If he had, the entire fiction would have been exposed. And any “rankling” we see in his own party would just be the usual moaning that we’re not growing government fast enough.
Because what he means is that he wants the other side to give him more collectivist stuff, with perhaps a few meaningless changes to let GOP congressmen save face. He most certainly does not mean that he’s willing to cut government in any shape, form, or fashion.
I must note, for the umpteenth time, that Obama does not think he’s lying when he says such things. The headline at Ace of Spades is “Obama Tells Another Whopper”. Most commentators on the right feel the same way, but I don’t. I think it’s important to understand what’s going on in the minds of those on the left when they trot out their preposterous untruths.
Here’s an example I’ve discussed before – Harry Reid attempting to redefine the word “voluntary”. If you’ve never seen that video, you really should take four minutes and watch it – it’s eye opening. If you’re new to QandO and never heard me go off about the post-modernist stance involved, read the comments.
That video was just a particularly egregious example of the post-modern debate tactics of the left. They really do believe that they can simply redefine a word to suit their argument. All they have to do then is to get enough people to go along with their new definition, and it becomes the “valid” definition.
One of their earliest triumphs in this space was co-opting the very term “liberal”. That case shows the pattern. They take a word that has positive connotations and redefine it to suit their partisan purposes. They do it through repetition via their mainstream media arm plus an occasional dose of shouting down the opposition.
“Compromise” has almost reached this state. They want it redefined to mean “giving collectivists at least part of what they want”. But they want to preserve the connotation that compromise is a good thing.
For the current crew in charge of the Democratic Party, plus their media comrades, “compromise” never means taking something away from collectivists or reducing the size and scope of government. Anything of that nature is immediately branded “extreme”. And, of course, you just can’t reason with extremists, so the implication is that they don’t need to be a part of the political process.
That’s how they are trying to tag Mitt Romney right now.
"I can’t speak to Governor Romney’s motivations," Obama said. "What I can say is that he has signed up for positions, extreme positions, that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken.
That’s laughable! Mitt Romney, an extremist? He’s the very archetype of an establishment, go-along-get-along Republican. He proved it in Massachusetts.
But it doesn’t matter whether he’s really extreme. The word has the connotation they want, so they use it incorrectly to promote their point of view, without a shred of shame or guilt, because they don’t think doing that is wrong.
To see additional recent examples of this insistence on the left to own definitions and set the terms of the debate in their favor, let’s look at some bilge from Nancy Pelosi and Tom Friedman.
First, here’s Pelosi in USA Today.
Though we never compromised principles, we did seek common ground to achieve results. From the start, we acted to strengthen workers by increasing the minimum wage for the first time in more than a decade. We worked with President Bush to jump-start our economy with recovery rebates for 130 million American families, even though Democrats preferred including investments to create jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges.
To promote the industries of the future and safeguard national security, we enacted the comprehensive Energy Independence and Security Act, raising fuel-efficiency standards for the first time in 32 years, investing in renewables and biofuels while creating clean energy jobs. We followed up with the COMPETES Act to support high-tech jobs, extend math and science education and boost research.
What she means by “not compromising principles” is “never giving in to reducing government”. Her examples prove it. They’re all about expanding government in some way.
These are not compromises, and having some gullible Republicans vote for them doesn’t change that.
Some of those gullible Republicans have since been sent to the showers, and the GOP’s major gains in 2010 reflected the dissatisfaction of these ridiculous “compromises” and the ever-expanding scope of government that goes along with them. Voters made it pretty explicit that they wanted to go in a different direction, and finally enough Republicans got that message to stop “compromising” in a way that constantly grew government.
But of course, Nancy wants to own the terminology. For her, the stand off resulted in a “do-nothing Congress”, which she seems to regard as intolerable.
This is one of the least productive Congresses in history, reported USA TODAY — even worse than the "do-nothing Congress" President Truman lambasted in 1948.
It never occurs to Nancy or her lapdog media acolytes to notice that the GOP passed a bunch of bills that were turned down by the Democrat-majority Senate. Why didn’t Nancy and her buddies in the Senate have some responsibility for compromise? Why weren’t some of those bills made law? It would have not been a “do-nothing Congress” then. Isn’t that important, Nancy?
No, it isn’t. What’s important is that she keeps growing government. That’s the only thing that matters to today’s left. The budget doesn’t matter (over three years without one, which I thought was something Congress was required to do), and the debt doesn’t matter (the Democrats want even more stimulus). They actually demand more regulations and higher taxes.
If you oppose any of those things, Nancy and her buddies are never, ever going to compromise with you. But they will constantly bitch and moan that you won’t “compromise” with them, i.e., go along with another round of making government bigger.
We’ve been seeing that sort of “compromise” for decades now, and it’s brought us to the verge of an economic meltdown unprecedented in history. Yet the collectivists keep insisting that somehow, some way, one more round of “compromise” that gives them most of what they want will do the trick and make things work out better.
To see Nancy’s support in the chin-pulling media, last week’s Tom Friedman column is a great example.
And even if Ryan’s entry does spark a meaningful debate about one of the great issues facing America — the nexus of debt, taxes and entitlements — there is little sign that we’ll seriously debate our other three major challenges: how to generate growth and upgrade the skills of every American in an age when the merger of globalization and the information technology revolution means every good job requires more education; how to meet our energy and climate challenges; and how to create an immigration policy that will treat those who are here illegally humanely, while opening America to the world’s most talented immigrants, whom we need to remain the world’s most innovative economy
But what’s even more troubling is that we need more than debates. That’s all we’ve been having. We need deals on all four issues as soon as this election is over, and I just don’t see that happening unless “conservatives” retake the Republican Party from the “radicals” — that is, the Tea Party base. America today desperately needs a serious, thoughtful, credible 21st-century “conservative” opposition to President Obama, and we don’t have that, even though the voices are out there.
This is the same sort of nonsense as that from Pelosi, under a different cover.
Friedman attempts to sound fair by admitting that we’re about to go off the cliff from entitlements and debt, and magnanimously agrees that we have to “do something”. Naturally, he ducks any mention of his preferred solution, and I don’t even have to know the details, because it is certain to mean higher taxes and more government. What else would we expect from someone who admires the authoritarians in China? (I notice that he doesn’t seem eager to notice their recent economic problems, and perhaps revisit his “analysis”, does he?)
But after that pro forma acknowledgment that serious problems must be solved, he veers off into how we absolutely must handle three other areas. It’s equally obvious that, as far as Friedman is concerned, more government is the preferred outcome.
Why else would these debates be so essential as soon as there’s a new Congress? What he’s suggesting is federal intervention to “upgrade skills” and “meet energy and climate challenges”. Naturally, he doesn’t bother to tell us precisely what government can do in these areas. He doesn’t really care much, as long as government gets more control.
Then he starts in on one area that is definitely the purview of the federal government: immigration. But he’s not for enforcing laws or any similar silly conservative notions. No, to him one of the top four critical issues that absolutely must be dealt with is how to treat illegal immigrants humanely. The fact that they chose to come here and can leave whenever they don’t like the way they’re treated never seems to enter his mind, nor does he support the claims of inhumane treatment. He just wants to again generate the urgency to “do something” because he expects the “something” that is reached via “compromise” to be within shouting distance of his preferred policy.
But he’s just setting the stage for his real lament:
We need deals on all four issues as soon as this election is over, and I just don’t see that happening unless “conservatives” retake the Republican Party from the “radicals” — that is, the Tea Party base.
See the rhetorical sleight of hand? Anyone who disagrees with his positions is automatically “radical”. Those who would “make a deal” with his side are the true conservatives.
This is just another example of wanting to own the terminology. Friedman thinks it’s completely appropriate for the left to dictate how political terms are used, even in describing their opponents. He want’s to redefine “conservative” to mean “someone who isn’t quite as collectivist as me, but is still willing to go along with the collectivist programs of the Democrats after some token opposition”. That is, he wants all respectable political labels to be flavors of collectivism.
He wants to redefine the Democrats like Pelosi too. I think it’s completely reasonable to say that she’s the most collectivist, far left Speaker of the House we’ve ever had, and her district is ideologically as collectivist as any in the nature. Obama is pretty much in the same territory, as his background and priorities during office have proven.
But to Friedman, they’re just “center left”:
We are not going to make any progress on our biggest problems without a compromise between the center-right and center-left. … Over the course of his presidency, Obama has proposed center-left solutions to all four of these challenges.
Again, the “compromise” he has in mind grows government. His “center-left” (which by historical standards is way, way to the left) would never, ever agree to anything else.
He concludes with
As things stand now, though, there is little hope this campaign will give the winner any basis for governing.
Sure, Tom, but whose fault is that? You want to claim it’s the fault of the right, because of course your vaunted collectivists are never at fault for anything that goes wrong, either here or in China. But why can’t your guys suck it up and compromise this time around?
The collectivist left has gotten their “compromises” from the GOP that led the way to bigger, more expensive, more debt-laden, and more intrusive government for decades. Isn’t it time for the compromise to go the other way for a while? Given the trouble we’re in, isn’t it time for the “center-left” to compromise for a while in the direction of less government?
No, of course not. For the likes of Obama, Pelosi, and Friedman, the day of admitting that their political opponents might have a point about big government will never come. They will never truly compromise with anyone who believes in limited government. They will only “compromise” – which means to keep growing government with the collusion of the establishment GOP.
I’m not the only one noticing this trend of redefining the terms instead of actually debating anything. Here’s James Taranto talking about the same thing:
Note carefully what is being asserted here. It’s not just that Democratic ideas are morally superior to Republican ones or that Barack Obama is a better president, or a better man, than Mitt Romney or would be, or is. Rather, the claim is that whereas billionaires who support Romney are greedy and selfish, those who back Obama are altruistic–or, to the extent they have a selfish motive, it is a relatively benign one, a simple desire to be in the presence of the Dear Leader.
It’s a leftist cliché that money corrupts politics. These leftists, however, believe that their politics somehow purifies money–that writing a check to Obama for America is an act of moral money-laundering.
Leftists have tried to own the terminology of politics as long as I remember. But notice, all these examples are within the last few days.
This is another sign to me that the Democrats are starting to feel desperation. They don’t have anything positive to talk about. They have no original or constructive ideas to offer the electorate. They have fallen back to spending almost all their time attempting to define the opposition as an intolerable alternative. They think that will let them win without a program, because they think they can simply define themselves as the only reasonable choice.
I do not think that’s going to work. But the collectivist Democrats will probably keep enough power in Congress to stymie any attempts by Republicans to do anything that reduces government in any substantial way.
If the Democrats lose the presidency (as I think likely) and the Senate (as I think possible), somehow I bet the collectivist left will suddenly lost their fervor for compromise. The filibuster will become an essential tool of democracy. A “do-nothing Congress” will quickly become a badge of honor instead of an insult.
But, when you’re a post-modernist, you never worry about consistency or hypocrisy. You just redefine your terms.
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