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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP’s Payroll Tax Cut Debacle Helps Dems With Moderates

There’s an insightful read at CenteredPolitics.com, “The Moderate Case Against Republicans In 2012” by Sheri Rivlin and Allan Rivlin. Regarding the recent GOP cave on extending unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut, the authors point out:

…The political importance of the Republican faux-pas is tremendous, because it brings into crystal clear focus, an accurate picture of the positions of the two parties. The House Republicans over-reached and rejected a short term deal between President Obama and the Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate that passed the Senate with 89 votes including 39 Republicans, because being non-compromisers has become the definition of who they are.
…Ill timed during the season of good cheer, the House Republicans snatched discord from the jaws of harmony in the Senate, rejecting a compromise and issuing new ultimatums and threats that put them so far from the center of American opinion that they were getting public criticism from all quarters, including John McCain, the Wall Street Journal, and Carl Rove.
The whole mess serves to make something clear to casual observers of the goings on in Washington (that is, most voters) what close observers have known all year – Republicans have been blocking all attempts at compromise. If it was not clear that Republicans were causing the rise in conflict in Washington after two budget standoffs and a showdown over raising the debt ceiling, it should be painfully obvious now. Like the Year-in-Review wrap-ups, Republicans have taken a year’s worth of political brinksmanship and repeated the whole pattern in the span of just a few days.

The authors roll out the appeal to political moderates in a succinct outline that should also help MSM reporters see through the false equivalency smokescreen:

A. Republicans have their strongly held views,
B. Democrats have their strongly held views,
C. Democrats have offered to split the difference, or go further toward their adversary’s position in order to get compromise and progress, while
D. Republicans have rejected all compromise
E. Therefore we have not principled gridlock but instead we have partisan road block caused by the intransigence of not both political parties, but rather just one, the Republicans.

President Obama has taken a lot of heat from progressives for “a pattern of appeasement with Republicans,” note the Rivlins. “Throughout a year filled with standoffs, showdowns, and threatened government shut downs, the President seems always to be offering more concessions while the Republicans seem to keep adding demands…”
Moderates, on the other hand, have expressed frustration with the President, who has “failed to exhibit a mastery of negotiation leverage” and “for negotiating badly and giving compromise a bad name.” The authors offer what may prove to be a breakthrough insight for Democratic leaders:

Republicans are good at bluffing but they would agree to almost anything if pressed to avoid a government shutdown because they know it would end in embarrassing defeat for Republicans as Newt Gingrich learned in 1995-1996.

If they are right, and the white house takes advantage of it, 2012 may yet shake out much better for Democrats than many now believe. As the Rivlins conclude:

Liberals and moderates can agree that Obama has paid a very high price, but he has purchased a strong argument against Republicans in the 2012 election. If you want to see the parties work through their differences, and come together in a spirit of compromise (and a strong majority of Americans do want this) then vote for President Obama and other Democrats because Republicans have rejected every Democratic offer of compromise…
…This newest episode, where Republicans and Democrats negotiated the compromise deal only to see other Republicans reject it again should remove any doubt for moderates who would like to see America’s political leaders getting along and getting their work done. If you are a moderate who wants to see Republicans and Democrats working together, vote out the Republicans this time around. The Democrats have been trying to work across party lines. The Republicans have been blocking progress.

The Republicans’ obstructionist posturing and mismanagement of the extension of payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits, followed by the House GOP leadership’s cave, have made it embarrassing for thinking moderates to express support for them. With House GOP leaders still groveling at the feet of the tea party, it seems unlikely that they will learn the lesson and begin negotiating in good faith. For all but the most “low information” of political moderates, their game is now done.

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