I keep reading that the pathetic old Barack Obama is back, the one who loses because he negotiates with himself:
We have seen this so many times in the past four years that I certainly hope President Obama is not falling for it again.I keep reading that there's a better approach:
Take a problem, any problem -- economic meltdown, debt ceiling, rising deficits, you name it -- which Republicans and Democrats are supposed to resolve through negotiation. Mr. Obama says he is ready to talk, and makes an initial offer that includes concessions to right-wing demands. Then he offers more concessions.
Republicans also claim they're ready to talk, and maybe in private they offer compromises (like we're told John Boehner did over the debt ceiling in 2011). But in public they stand firm on their positions, stick to their talking points and brush back whatever the president suggests as not enough.
Eventually they meet somewhere around the president's 20-yard line.
It's happening again, right now, in the fiscal cliff talks....
...here's the thing -- if you have to make concessions, at least make the other side own them. Here's what you do:Really? How do you that? By putting Republicans in a hopeless position? What the hell do Republicans consider a hopeless position?
1) Only make concessions as part of a final deal....
2) Make the GOP own the stuff no one likes. Like chained CPI. You don't propose it yourself. You let THEM propose it....
Regardless of what polls say right now, Republicans don't fear the electoral consequences to their party of a "fiscal cliff" failure or a debt-ceiling default or any other real or overhyped cataclysm. They just got through an election in which the Obama turnout model prevailed, but what's coming up is a midterm election -- and Democrats showed no ability to turn voters out in 2010, while Republicans used precisely this kind of air of crisis to turn their voters out. And not just Republican voters, but the craziest, angriest subgroup of that voter base, the folks who, even now, make up the 41% of their party that doesn't want any compromise whatsoever.
They believe gerrymandering will ensure that they hold the House no matter what they do, even if they blow the economy up. They think they'll probably make gains in the Senate because they're defending only one blue-state seat and Democrats are defending seven red-state seats.
They saw how Scott Walker survived widespread public anger and a recall vote -- and they know that last month's election put the Wisconsin legislature completely in control of Republicans again, after legislative recall elections briefly tipped the Senate to the Democrats. And that was despite the Obama turnout machine's efforts. So Republicans feel electorally bulletproof. They feel they can weather anything short of, say, a 70%-30% groundswell against their positions (and, alas, we're nowhere near that) -- they assume that when the anger dies down, they'll just do the usual base-rallying, and all the angry white Foxheads and Limbaughnistas will save their hides yet again.
They don't care about this country. All they care about is winning. So -- except possibly on taxing the rich (and then only reluctantly, and barely) -- they don't feel any need whatsoever to propose compromises. You simply can't make them do it. They're perfectly happy to walk away and watch the whole thing burn. They don't believe they'll be punished at the polls. And so the president and the Democrats don't hold "all the cards," or even most of them.
The 2012 election didn't strike fear into the GOP. The only thing that might make them tremble would be a 2014 shellacking. In dealing with this crisis, we can't wait for that, assuming it can even happen.