“The perfect is the enemy of the good,” wrote deist Voltaire in an 18th century poem. The idea, of course, is that the pursuit of perfection may sometimes prevent an action less perfect that still produces something good…or at least better than nothing.
That argument has become a figurative phylactery in Washington many wear on their foreheads to expedite compromise they claim is noble. President Obama alluded to it in his most recent address to the nation on the debt ceiling:
“…Do you know what people are fed up with most of all? They’re fed up with a town where compromise has become a dirty word…”
I think he may be right. The typical American of 2011 is the personification of compromise. In an age of multiculturalism, diversity, and moral equivalence it is the person holding fast who garnishes disdain. All things are tolerated but certainty. Most of us would not pay a price, no matter how small for a principle. We can’t comprehend historical accounts of people like Sir Thomas Moore who lost his life rather than take an oath.
Career…money….power….popularity…acceptance…those are the cherished goals of our culture. Any one willing to sacrifice such things for honor, principle, morality or long-term objectives are hobbits needing to be sent back to Middle Earth.
At least that’s how a Wall Street Journal Editorial characterized Republican conservatives trying to hold the line on spending and keep their word to the American people. As Congress and the President flail about, seemingly unable, certainly unwilling to face the real truth about America’s coming financial debacle, a band of principled Representatives and Senators who see clearly what must be done, are coming under ridicule.
Senator John McCain took to the Senate Chamber, echoing the WSJ metaphor, calling their resolve “crack pot political thinking.” The same thinking “that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into G.O.P. nominees,” he taunted, referring to two losing Tea Party Senate candidates in 2010. This, spoken arguably by the person besides President Obama most responsible for the tanking economy; the 2008 Republican Presidential Candidate, who by foolish, misguided political calculation, refused to fight. Of course he is opposed to anyone who sees clearly for he is a confused advocate of “the good” and not the “perfect.” McCain was the personification of the “good” rather than the “perfect.”