An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

So, if I’m standing on the edge of a precipice and being pushed from behind with oblivion below, why do I not feel the queasy sensation of adrenaline pumping, or at least some vertiginous unease?

Maybe it’s because the “fiscal cliff” we’re all sick of hearing about is an overblown metaphor for what could better be described as an impasse.

I first heard the term last fall, from the guy who manages my retirement funds. I had to ask him what he was talking about, but here’s little chance of anyone not being familiar with the frightening moniker now.

So why am I not shaking in my hiking boots?

Because it’s really a game — a high stakes game, admittedly, and one that will impact many people one way or the other, but still not unlike a glorified game of chicken. It’s not as simple as being a contest between those who advocate for poor and middle-income Americans versus those who advocate for the rich, but that’s certainly a major element.

Another word for “cliff” is “bluff,” and there’s a lot of that going on. Eventually, somebody will blink and there will be some sort of compromise. Legislators know that voters won’t stand for a continuation of the gridlock that has gummed up the works for the past couple of years. They’ll work something out, if not today, then sometime early in the year.

Or they’ll all be looking for new jobs after the next election.

If Americans are going to keep thinking of ourselves as a shining bastion of democracy and an example to the nations, we’re going to have to get past our diametric dysfunction and embrace some sort less polarized cooperation.

That’s one prayer for the New Year …

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