Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, December 29th, 2012.


Countdown to the Cliff

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Obama Administration

Two posts on why what we don’t need is a compromise:

Jamelle Bouie:

What’s striking about McConnell’s rhetoric — and the calls for compromise writ large — is the extent to which they seem to operate in a vacuum. Neither McConnell, nor Boehner, nor Schultz (or similar-minded people at organizations such as Fix the Debt) have acknowledged one key fact about the current situation: That it comes just a month after a presidential election, where the incumbent won a solid victory after campaigning for a stronger safety net, tax increases on the rich and a “balanced” solution to deficit reduction.

“Both sides” don’t need to compromise. Rather, Republicans need to reconcile themselves to the fact that the public voted decisively against their policies, both in the presidential election and in congressional elections around the country, where Democrats won most open Senate seats and came away from House elections with a larger share of votes (which, due to redistricting and population movement, didn’t translate to a large gain in the chamber itself). The fiscal cliff shouldn’t be used to circumvent the clear preferences of the electorate.

Ezra Klein:

See also Michael Tomasky:

So this all falls entirely on the shoulders of McConnell and Boehner. Obama, if The New York Times scoop was right yesterday about the new terms he put on the table, has done plenty of compromising, especially for the guy who won the election. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are behind him. So the Democrats are ready to play ball.

The only thing the Republicans are ready to play, as usual, is roulette, with the cocked gun against the country’s temple, unfortunately, and not their own. It’s worth taking a moment in this context to consider: Never have the priorities for survival and success of a major party’s Washington politicians been so utterly at odds with the priorities required for the country’s survival and success. These Washington Republicans represent the one-third of the country that hates government, despises Obama, and considers obstruction victory.

The check on that sort of behavior is blame. If Republicans are being intransigent and the American people want compromise, then, in theory, the Republicans will get blamed. And that does seem to be happening: The GOP polls terribly, and they lost the 2012 election.

But at the elite level — which encompasses everyone from CEOs to media professionals — there’s a desire to keep up good relations on both sides of the aisle. And so it’s safer, when things are going wrong, to offer an anodyne criticism that offends nobody — “both sides should come together!” — then to actually blame one side or the other. It’s a way to be angry about Washington’s failure without alienating anyone powerful. That goes doubly for commercial actors, like Starbucks, that need to sell coffee to both Republicans and Democrats.

That breaks the system. It hurts the basic mechanism of accountability, which is the public’s ability to apportion blame. If one side’s intransigence will lead to both sides getting blamed, then it makes perfect sense to be intransigent: You’ll get all the benefits and only half the blame.

The two parties are not equivalent right now. The two sides are not the same. If you want Washington to come together, you need to make it painful for those who are breaking it apart. Telling both sides to come together when it’s predominantly one side breaking the negotiations apart actually makes it easier on those who’re refusing to compromise.

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