Anti-Bullying Lessons from the Fiscal Cliff

US Capitol Midnight
We the People took our country back on election night, and the Democrats discovered they have a pair [of balls] after all. Over the New Year’s holiday, they out-Republicaned the Republicans to bring the country back from the fiscal cliff.

This morning the Republicans are shouting “WTF!”  They could have gotten a better deal months, weeks, and days ago.  Yet, if you read this morning’s Huffington Post, you’ll discover there are delicious goodies for Wall Street and the 1% buried in the deal.

V.P. Joe Biden

V.P. Joe Biden

Fiscal Cliff Lessons

We’ve all encountered bullies and abusive people.  They love to intimidate their prey into silence and a feeling of impotence.  The Republican party has been bullying the American public for years.  We the People got sold out because the Democrats cowered in the corner.

I was flabbergasted when my own typically wimpy Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) boldly suggested several weeks ago that we just let it go over the fiscal cliff.  At first, I thought she was nuts.  But, as I pondered on her idea, I realized she was being quite savvy.  The tax cuts on the 1% would expire at midnight on New Year’s Eve.  The Republicans would have to fight to get them back. 

It was like the night I looked the judge square in the eye and told him to go ahead and shoot me.  I knew in my soul that he didn’t have the balls to actually do it.  Sometimes we just have to call a bully’s bluff.

By the time bully-in-chief Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) realized he was precariously out on a limb, the clock had literally run out.  This is the second lesson.  Provide a net and allow the bully to save face.  The net was his old buddy V.P. Joe Biden, who skillfully negotiated a win-win bipartisan bill that could pass both houses of Congress.  We can allow our allies to achieve final victory and let them take the credit.

Nobody wins in a win-lose deal.  Both parties ultimately lose.  Yes, we all want to whip the person’s ass who has been kicking us around for a long time.  But, this is never, ever a good strategy in the long-run ~ especially when we may have to deal with that person again.  We can win a battle and start a war that never ends.

Pres. Barack Obama

Pres. Barack Obama

The one thing I think hopefully in the new year we’ll focus on
is seeing if we can put a package
like this together with a little bit less drama,
a little less brinksmanship,
not scare the heck out of folks quite as much.
-Pres. Barack Obama

“No Drama” Obama

The last lesson is that we do need to assert our boundaries with bullies.  Yet, there is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive.  Assertion requires us to be calm, diplomatic, and firm in our courage and convictions.  We respect ourselves and the other person.  We stand tall.

Aggression, on the other hand, is laced with anger, arrogance, and self-righteousness.  It is disrespectful and a mask for insecurity. 

I have long admired Pres. Obama’s ability to diffuse the drama in volatile situations.  He hired the most brilliant and competent people and gives them credit for the success they achieve.  He effectively uses humor.  When he calls people on their bullshit, he does it with respect.


It isn’t easy to treat our most bitter enemies with dignity and respect.  Yet, this is how we achieve peace.  It requires enormous discipline, self-confidence, faith, courage, strength of character, and love.

See also: Republicans Apologize to Top 1.5 Per Cent (satire by Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker)

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