What’s going on in Washington resembles Dolley Madison’s scramble to save the valuable items in the White House as the British approached Washington in 1814.

It is not clear that those scrambling today will manage to get out with anything other than badly tarnished reputations.

As a theologian, what I see is what happens when politicians–often too quick to compromise–go the other way and sign on to “true believer” politics. This is believing so deeply in some principle that you will NEVER compromise. It is right and all who differ are not only wrong, but even bad. Religious people do that fairly often–which is why there is so much hatred between people of different religions.

Portrait saved by Dolley Madison

But in politics, there is supposed to be a way to make things work. As in a marriage, or any other relationship, compromise is required. Nobody gets their way, entirely–unless it is a dictatorship or an oligarchy.

True religion often works like an oligarchy, a few people have the power to tell everyone else what to think, and even do.

I do believe the single most important culprit in creating this mess–other than 10 years of deficit spending (don’t believe those folks who say it is all Obama’s fault, “W” and his cronies did plenty, too)–is the propensity of politicians to sign pledges that leave them no wiggle room.

There are some things worth pledging–monogamy in marriage, for example–but the pledge to NEVER raise taxes, or even revenue, is nothing short of stupid. You can’t govern that way.

There comes a moment, as the Democrats saw in agreeing to $2 trillion in spending cuts in the Biden-led negotiations, when you have to recognize the validity of the other side. So far, that recognition has not been reciprocated.

At least, Dolley made it out with the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington. I am not sure what we are going to have left–if something does not change soon.


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