THE DEMOCRATS' LACK OF A MADMAN STRATEGY
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know: The Wall Street Journal, Scott Brown, and John McCain are all fretting that the payroll tax showdown is hurting the GOP politically. But tell me why I shouldn't believe Dave Weigel's theory that the GOP is going to win, as usual:
The cynic's bet is that the story of GOP dysfunction won't matter, so long as there's eventually some compromise. Eyes on the prize: If the other side blinks, and it always does, what can Republicans get out of them?
Key phrase there: and it always does. When was the last time the Democratic Party didn't blink?
...Yes, the Republicans are coming off as intransigent. But Democrats want to re-elect the president, so they'll ultimately give up a lot to extend a tax cut and unemployment benefits. In the meantime, Republicans can figure out what leverage they have to weaken the welfare state. Despite how it looks right now, it doesn't make sense to doubt them. After all, they've had a lot of practice at this.
I agree. Democrats don't dare apply a domestic version of Nixon's madman strategy -- that is, they don't dare say, "Well, we're perfectly content to blow the whole thing up" -- because they fear they'll be blamed. And given the media's relentlessly blame-everybody narrative -- echoed on numerous occasions by President Obama -- why should they have confidence that they'd avoid the blame?
So everyone will be called back between now and January and Republicans will start the hostage negotiations:
They want a few things. The House's version of the one-year extension included reforms that Republicans plan to stick to. On unemployment, the GOP wanted to cut the maximum duration from 99 weeks to 59 weeks and add in some new requirements. Beneficiaries who didn’t have GEDs would have to try to get them. States implementing unemployment insurance could require drug tests....
Also among the House GOP's demands: a hold on new EPA rules governing boilers, and an expedited decision of the Keystone XL pipeline....
Democrats aren't going to play chicken successfully because playing chicken isn't in their nature, because (unlike the snot-nosed teabag Republicans) they actually give a crap whether these benefits are extended, and because they've never spent any time building and communicating an Republicans-are-evil narrative that they can tap into right now. So, yeah, I think Weigel's absolutely right about this.
(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)