John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Age of Synthesis

Posted on November 5, 2012
If 2008 was the thesis and 2010 was the antithesis, 2012 is the Age of the Synthesis.

I always thought that George Hegel would have love this formulation, but I learned from reading Wikipedia that Hegel is a good more complicated than that:
“Hegelian dialectic, usually presented in a threefold manner, was stated by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis. Although this model is often named after Hegel, he himself never used that specific formulation. Hegel ascribed that terminology to Kant.  Carrying on Kant's work, Fichte greatly elaborated on the synthesis model, and popularized it.  On the other hand, Hegel did use a three-valued logical model that is very similar to the antithesis model, but Hegel's most usual terms were: Abstract-Negative-Concrete. Hegel used this writing model as a backbone to accompany his points in many of his works.  The formula, thesis-antithesis-synthesis, does not explain why the thesis requires an Antithesis. However, the formula, abstract-negative-concrete, suggests a flaw, or perhaps an incomplete-ness, in any initial thesis—it is too abstract and lacks the negative of trial, error and experience. For Hegel, the concrete, the synthesis, the absolute, must always pass through the phase of the negative, in the journey to completion, that is, mediation. This is the actual essence of what is popularly called Hegelian Dialectics."

Having attempted to read some Hegel in college, I guess I should have figured that things would be more complicated that I remember it.  That being said, I still like the Hegelian dialectic as I remember it.

In 2008, Barack Obama promised to fundamentally change America.  Change you can believe in was the promise to all of those young and old voters.  Hope and change. You got any spare change.  That kind of thing.

And when Obama got into office, he went about changing things completely.  He spent a trillion dollars on a stimulus bill that fundamentally tried to change how our economy worked, making it much more reliant on the government than it had otherwise been.

He then focused his attention almost exclusively on changing fundamentally our health care system.   He set up a government board that was in charge of telling doctors and patients what was an acceptable health care expenditure and what wasn’t.   He put in a tax penalty requiring everybody to buy health insurance and requiring that every business offer it to everybody.  He set new health care exchanges that would give employers incentives to drop their employees health care insurance.  He basically threw the whole health care system up for grabs.

And these two heavy lifts, the President’s agenda basically stopped in its tracks.  A counter-movement mobilized called the Tea Party, and its radicalized the Republican Party to stop any cooperation at all with the President.

The Tea Party Congress swept in with a clear mandate:  Stop Obama.

And that is what it accomplished.  It didn’t have many legislative victories on its own, other than stopping further movement to the left.   The one thing it did accomplish, with the President’s signature, was complicated if awkward agreement to increase the debt limit only if an automatic spending cut of government spending accompanied such an increase.  That automatic spending cut focused mostly on defense and health care provider spending.

The Tea Party successfully elected new members to the Congress who were aggressively anti-spending.  These folks wanted no government intrusion into the marketplace, no spending for job creation, very little government spending at all.  Some wanted to privatize Medicare and Social Security.  Others wanted to get rid of PBS funding and to allow the Postal Service to go broke.

And some of these Tea Party favorites promised that they would never, ever compromise.  It worked well in 2010, and in the early stages of the primary process.

These Tea Partiers were doing their level best to be the anti-thesis to the Obama thesis.

Now we are entering the Age of Synthesis.

The American people are not content to have political gridlock, because, as it turns out, gridlock has a real impact on the economy.  The defense sequester will hurt economic growth.  Automatic tax increases will slow job creation.

When the Congress and the President waited until the last minute to raid the debt limit last time, it left a bitter taste in the mouths of voters who were impacted immediately by the crisis that almost ensued.

The voters want a return to pragmatism.   They want the government to function.  They want somebody to take the best ideas from both sides and to craft a common-sense approach to implement them.  They want a synthesizer in chief because they want to move on from the Age of Thesis and the Age of Anti-thesis.

They want to move on to the Age of Synthesis.