No doubt a watershed moment has been lost. The tax cuts and unemployment benefits compromise, struck by the President with Senate Republican leader McConnell, is at best a long odds gamble, and at worst a capitulation to plutocracy. Even with the nation's attention turned to the need for deficit reduction, Democrats found their voices simply weren't loud enough to denounce Republican advocacy of exceptionalism for the rich.
While the story is far from over, I already feel we're left in a state of equivocalness. True, the trickle down justification for the compromise is nonsense, but also true is the alacrity with which liberals will put the poor in jeopardy. Obama, a man who began his career as a grass roots organizer, is closer to the horrors of deprivation than are most of his critics, and he correctly saw that Republicans were willing to cut off benefits for people who would never vote for them anyway.
True, the President has failed to articulate his core beliefs and demonstrate willingness to fight for them, but also true is the fact that vulnerable Democrats pressed Congressional leadership to postpone voting on the Bush tax cuts until after the election because the polls told them it would hurt their chances of winning. Their timidity and procrastination put time on the side of the GOP.
Let's take a breath. Let's think about going for a stroll along a river where small sailboats glide over the rippled water. Let's not notice the absence of trees or lush greenery on our bank as we gaze at the heavy new iron bridge, built to replace the venerable old one that was destroyed in the Franco-Prussian War. Let's admire its strength: it can support two locomotives crossing on it while they billow soot and steam into the cloudscape. Let's try not to judge this confluence of industry and recreation, of sunlight and smog, of fecundity and barrenness. Let's just look, impress it on our memories, and then pass on.
Claude Monet: Le pont de chemin der fer à Argenteuil, 1873. The painting sold for $41,480,000 in 2008. Do you find it beautiful? Click on the picture for a closer look.