If You Love the Constitution, Then Go Take It

Posted: Dec 17, 2013 12:01 AM

The gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair now evident amongst the talkers and the chattering class about the newest budget deal is more proof that our constitution still works, even if imperfectly.

I know that many of you have heard that the constitution was outdated, a relic of old white men, not suited for today’s hyper-partisanship. Some of you have even predicted the demise of the Republic.

The only thing hyper right now is the hyperventilating of people like David Brooks, the EEOC’s pick for token Republican at the New York Times.

Brooks is upset because the poor people at the Congressional Budget Office have to work so hard analyzing bills, when after all, so few bills are passed into law.

“It’s possible that years will go by without the passage of a major piece of legislation. Meanwhile,” Brooks continues, “Washington nearly strangles on a gnat, like this week’s teeny budget compromise.”

What Brooks sees as a drawback, I see as a benefit.

You see, I for one am a bit more sanguine about the survival of the country, in part, because of the budget deal.

The sad truth is that Republicans and Democrats in Congress got the best budget deal that they were able to.

Neither side has the muscle, under our constitution, to get the kind of deal that they’d like. After the bruising that Republicans took over the shutdown—a shutdown that I supported—and the bruising that Democrats are taking on Obamacare, both sides felt it a necessary evil to put on their “statesmanship” hat for a moment, because frankly, many of them are up for reelection.

With approval ratings hovering in the teens for Congress and an all time low for the president, compromise is the inevitable result. You don’t have to agree with the compromise to understand it.

Even more, this is how our founders intended the government to work. For all of you who cry "What about the constitution?" Compromise and slow change is how the constitution works.

Just as Democrats didn’t march to victory in one or two election cycles, so too Republicans should expect that it will take a bit longer to capture enough of the government to effect real change.

Yes, we could do with better top-of-the-ticket candidates—and that applies to both Tea Party and establishment candidates.

But we are in the process of developing strong leaders, who can appeal to young voters, Hispanic voters, black voters, who at the same time, can appeal to the base.

Rebuilding a party—and the government that goes with it-- isn’t done in one election cycle.

It takes a lot of them.

For example, in 1858 Abraham Lincoln was defeated in his race for the United States Senate by Stephen Douglas, making it Lincoln’s third electoral defeat in a row.

During that time, Lincoln’s old Whig Party broke up, slavery was expanded into the territories under Dread Scott, and the Republican Party was born.

But on the night that Lincoln was defeated, again, victory seemed far away.

As Lincoln emerged from the telegraph office into the rain-soaked street in Springfield, Illinois he lost his balance when his foot slipped on the slick boardwalk. Catching himself before he tumbled into the mud Lincoln muttered to under his breath, “A slip, but not a fall.”

He then smiled brightly.

Recognizing the symbolic importance for his political life of catching himself before he fell, Lincoln understood that his political career was not over despite his string of defeats. He started for home reenergized.

In two years he was elected President of the United States.

It will take a long time to get the ship of state righted.

It also takes a coalition, to replace the coalition that broke up in the wake of Obama’s victory.

But the resources to win still exist.

They are called elections.

Just remember this: They can’t cheat if you don’t make it close.

It will be a lot less close if Republicans keep the government open this time.

That’s what this budget is about.

You don’t have to like. But you should understand it.

You want the power to change it?

Then go take it.