Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, November 30, 2012

Rarely Is It Asked, Is Our Presidents Learning?

So for the last four years - and especially the last two - negotiations between Obama and the GOP leadership in Congress have basically taken this form:

- Obama and the GOP are far apart.
- Obama offers up a middle position designed to accommodate GOP demands in return for a few concessions to Democratic demands.  In effect, he offers up the outlines for the eventual compromise.
- The GOP uses this compromise position as the new Democratic position and seek to negotiate from there.

Needless to say this is how we got into the fiscal cliff austerity bomb issue in the first place, because of the disastrous GOP negotiations over the debt ceiling.

This time around, Obama is basically saying, "These are our positions.  What are yours?"  In other words, he's treating this as a negotiation between political adversaries rather than as an effort between civic minded public servants to reach a rational compromise.  More succinctly, Obama has recognized the reality of the modern GOP.

One of the many problems that the GOP has is that their cuts are not very popular.  The cuts that actually ARE popular - cuts to defense and ag subsidies - are in the Democratic position.  Basically, Obama is saying, "Here is what we believe.  Here are our positions.  What are yours?"

The GOP response has been, "Why won't you embrace our positions?  Why won't you be the one to offer up what we want?"  When Mitch McConnell says "The President is not being serious about spending cuts" the obvious response is, "Of course he isn't.  That's YOUR job to offer up spending cuts.  The spending cuts he wants to offer are in his plan.  You want more?  Ask for them."

When I started this blog, I kept saying that the GOP was bad at governing, but good at winning elections.  Increasingly, they are good at neither.  In fact, they can't even seem to embrace the time honored American practice of horse trading and compromise.  This morning I heard a GOP House member from Idaho say that comprehensive immigration reform was impossible because you'd be left with a bill that would have something in it that everyone would hate.


The old definition of a compromise is a deal that leaves you angry, but consoles you with the knowledge that the other guy is angry, too.

The modern GOP is really not interested in compromise, because it's not especially interested in the process of governing.  They see themselves as revolutionaries.  They are ideologues clinging to an absolutest position.  Zealots don't compromise.  Therefore zealots can't govern,

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