Sen. Mike Lee, another GOP Idealist Against the Ideologues?

When political idealists battle political ideologues, the idealists usually lose.

During the Friday, July 1 airing of FOX's Freedom Watch television show, host Judge Andrew Napolitano interviewed Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee concerning the debate in Congress over raising the federal debt limit.

Napolitano opposes raising it.  Lee, a frequent guest on his show, and a newly-elected, outspoken conservative, said he's prepared to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for a pledge from Democrat Senators to support a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Lee used the analogy of a person descending from a tall building to argue his case.  To paraphrase: In order to avoid the disaster of jumping off a tall building and suffering the consequences of a sudden impact with the ground, a wise man uses a rope to gradually repel to the ground. Likewise, one more increase in the debt limit will help to slow down federal spending and avoid a sudden fiscal shock to the government.

That brief exchange illustrates the timeless confrontation between political idealists and political ideologues. Lee, an idealist in this case, assumes that bargains can be struck with political opponents who share basically equivalent principles and motives. Politics is after all, often said to be the art of compromise. 

It's that notion -- that compromise is attainable among reasonable people -- that's long led political idealists in the quest for the holy grail of compromise where two parties attain common ground, find the workable solution, and reach a meeting of the minds. For Senator Lee, raising the debt limit, just one more time, is necessary to exacting a pledge of support from that number of Democrat Senators needed to pass a balanced budget amendment.  

Unfortunately, when GOP idealists compromise with ideologues -- the modern Democratic Party is led by hardcore ideologues -- they lose due to their Achilles' heel...naiveté. The 20th Century poster boy for political naiveté was, of course, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who waved the signed agreement that guaranteed peace.

Lee's analogy to a man descending a building is built on a false comparison driven by a manufactured assumption that, if the debt limit isn't raised one more time, the nation will necessarily die on impact. Nonsense.  

A better analogy likens Congress' debt addiction to the unquenchable thirst for alcohol. Or, for that matter, for any drug. Sure, "the patch" helps some smokers quit, and Methadone can help wean addicts from drug addiction. But for the chronic drunk there's no substitute to stopping the destructive behavior. The alcoholic who announces his plan to stop drinking a little at a time in order to let himself down easy, and even signs a pledge to do so, can be found months later face down in the same corner tavern.

On July 4, we celebrate a day willed to us by ideologues for liberty and its freedoms. The Founders were not idealists.  

We watch and wonder if, at the end of this debt crisis, a smiling GOP will wave a paper proclaiming a compromise in Congress that signals fiscal responsibility in our time.