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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Like Negotiating With Toddlers in Mid-Tantrum

Greg Sargent has a short, smart post “Why Republicans are better at negotiating than Dems,” which says a lot about why bipartisanship is a fading ideal, as well as the futility of offering up-front concessions to an adversary with an increasingly infantile attitude toward conflict-resolution. Noting the speculation that Dems are seriously considering dropping the millionaire’s surtax in exchange for the GOP dumping the Keystone XL pipeline poison pill, Sargent quotes Boehner’s ‘rationale’:

They never had the votes for their so-called millionaires’ surtax,” Boehner said at his weekly briefing with reporters. “They didn’t even have the votes in 2009 and 2010, when they controlled everything. So, I appreciate the fact that they gave up on their millionaires’ surtax, but they didn’t give anything up because they never had it.

“Dems view these talks as follows: We give something up, and you give something up in return,” says Sargent. That is the way sincere, problem-solving grown-ups negotiate, only you don’t cave on your most important goal up front. The GOP “leadership,” on the other hand, offers the following warped “logic,” Sargent explains:

…Republicans view them as: Your concessions don’t even count as concessions, because we were never going to agree to your demands in the first place, so you’ll have to come up with some real concessions, i.e., you’ll have to give up more.

As Sargent concludes about the GOP position, “This pretty clearly illustrates the folly of signaling a willingness to compromise in advance, doesn’t it?”

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