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Democracy requires compromise

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 12-19-2010 | in Government, Democracy, Human Relations, Critical Thinking, Economics,

Many Americans believe President Obama sold out to Republicans when he agreed to the compromised tax cut and unemployment extension bill. I wanted him to fight Republican demands that a tax cut extension must include super wealthy families. However, some of this criticism may be excessive given the president's role in our democratic government.

Too many Americans have a distorted view of democracy and unrealistic concept of presidential powers. Compromise is an absolute requirement for democracy to work. Rarely does one side successfully achieve all its goals in a democratic system. The stubborn refusal by one side to compromise-a characteristic increasingly common among Republicans-destroys democracy.

President Obama wanted a tax cut extension bill that applied only to families at or below the middle-income level. However, he had no direct constitutional powers to create this result. The U.S. Constitution appoints Congress the only body that can pass law. It names the House of Representatives as the body that initiates tax revenue laws. The president may veto laws passed by Congress in which case the House and Senate can override his veto with a two-thirds vote.

The president's veto powers were not useful here, because a veto of congressional action would not gain the limited tax cut and unemployment benefits extensions he desired. Only his powers of persuasion remained. Voters weakened those powers with a November 2010 election result that made Republicans the majority political party in the House of Representatives and increased their numbers in the Senate. Voters effectively sided with Republican demands for tax cut extensions inclusive of high-income families. Obama is a member of the Democrat Party. Nevertheless, as president he has a moral obligation to consider all Americans' interests. Therefore, he fashioned a compromise plan and encouraged Congress to approve it. Relying on credit and debt to fund government operations is an unwise economy policy that undermines our democracy. On the other hand, gridlock from stubborn refusal to compromise harms it more.

Today, congress members compromised again to achieve a goal President Obama set for his term in office. Some Republicans joined Democrats and voted for an end to the 1993 'don't ask, don't tell' law banning gay and lesbian troops from serving openly. "Don't ask, don't tell' was a devious law that blatantly humiliated gay and lesbian military members by making them complicit in the denial of their right to equal treatment. The law was a stain on the reputation of the United States as a nation protective of human rights. The new law passed by Congress to repeal it was another example of cooperation and compromise in our democracy.

on 2010-12-19 14:34:50
Thanks Kenneth for the informative article. I understand better what President Obama had to do to get the results he campaigned for the people.
vernetta northcutt
on 2010-12-20 10:24:18
I,as many others, was upset that President Obama compromised with the Republicans on the tax extension bill. My feeling was that if the President oompromised with the Republicans on this issue, the President would be a hostage to future Republican demands. However, after reading Mr. Brooks' well presented article, I had a change of heart. Sometimes compromise is, indeed, the better side of valor.

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