Ezra Klein yesterday obtained and published a document Patty Murray has been circulating among Senate Democrats that explains her stance in the just concluded negotiations. It lays out three basic negotiating positions that Senate Democrats seem to have agreed on as the basic foundation for their discussions with the GOP. They are:
(1) No changes to entitlements absent tax increases
(2) No changes to sequestration without revenues
(3) No restoration of defense spending without an equal restoration of domestic spending.
Now obviously firm progressives would like to see the Dems win upper-income tax increases and the abandonment of sequestration without making any concessions at all in return. But, given the current balance of power, the reality is that Dems simply do not have the leverage to force Republicans to grant such concessions.
This then presents progressives with a more specific question that is worth considering more carefully than is often done: are these three stances actually the best negotiating positions that are available to Democrats given the current balance of power between the two parties or are there other positions that could form a superior basis for negotiation – particularly given the fact that negotiations to agree on a budget cannot be avoided and do indeed have to occur?
There is no simple answer to this question but it is a very useful one for progressives to consider. The difference between successful and unsuccessful political strategies is often best determined not in comparing the results of one specific strategy with a groups’ basic long-range goals and objectives but rather by comparing it with the alternative strategies that might actually be available in a given situation.