Monday, April 22, 2013

Republicans can't seem to get over their "lose/lose" strategy with Obama

Some people I admire a lot are suggesting that the gun background check legislation failed because of monied interests on the part of folks like the NRA. I'm not buying that argument. What we saw in the 2012 election was that with everyone from Karl Rove to the NRA - other than perhaps keeping some candidates alive during the Republican primary - money didn't matter. The Republican Party is not being controlled by money these days - but by grassroots lunatics who threaten to primary anyone who doesn't toe their line.

So why did 90% of Republican Senators vote against a bill that is supported by 90% of the American public? I'd suggest its the same reason they've always been opposed to anything President Obama supports. Their lunatic base can't countenance anything that gives the President a "win."

Thinking about it all this morning, I remembered a time when Mistermix over at Balloon Juice nailed it. See if his words from 2 1/2 years ago don't still ring true today.
...Ezra Klein thinks that Obama’s a bad poker player. He may be right, but the analogy isn’t helpful. Poker is a win/lose game. Negotiation is a win/win game, because both parties get something when a deal is struck. Republicans aren’t playing poker or negotiating. They are playing another game, call it “You Must Lose”. They’re happy with win/lose, if they win, but they’ll tolerate lose/lose as long as Obama loses.

The only analogy that springs to mind when I look at the Republicans’ recent behavior is a bad divorce. Think of a situation where Lisa and Bob are getting a divorce, and Bob is so hell-bent on hurting Lisa that he doesn’t care about their kids or their bank account. Bob will deploy a hundred variations on the same tactic: put the Lisa in a bind where she has to choose between damaging the children and losing money. Lisa will lose money almost every time in order to save the children.

In this situation, capitulation is inevitable, the only question is what form it will take...

Obama has three tactics he can use, all of them weak: The first is to try to fracture the Republican caucus...The second is to use executive power to its limit, by rule-making...The third is institutional reform, specifically, ending the filibuster.

None of these tactics is especially effective, but when you’re working with someone who’s only happy if you lose, what else is there?
Some people are suggesting that Republicans voted against the background checks bill because they know they're going to have to vote for immigration reform soon and didn't want to have to explain supporting two Obama "wins" to their lunatic base.

If enough Republicans are prepared to trade a lose/lose on gun reform in order to make peace with a win/win on immigration, at least they are demonstrating that elections have consequences. That would never have happened without their resounding loss among Latino voters in 2012.

What we need is a massive voter turnout in 2014 to get it through to them that we've had it with the lose/lose game. Anything that takes our eyes off that prize (and yes, that includes folks like the emos and Maureen Dowd) simply prolongs the power of the Republicans to keep us deadlocked in this lose/lose nightmare. Its time to wake up and smell the big picture folks. Nothing - and I mean NOTHING - is as important as breaking this one for good.

6 comments:

  1. I am sort of surprised that Mistermix labelled fracturing the GOP caucus a weak tactic. Maybe he meant in the immediate term.

    Your basic point is right on. The GOP base has been trained to view politics like sports, where there's points scored and a winner, and--this is the real thing--the game exists entirely as a thing unto itself. Whether the Cubs win or lose has no effect on capital markets or diplomatic efforts. That's true. Whether bill X passes or not does have an effect, and that's why our politics has become so screwy.

    These policies are all important, but the fact as we can see it is that 2012 only gave pause to the GOP hierarchy, not to its base. And that base, while it may not control the leadership, controls the footsoldiers. My point is that we would be naive to expect major legislative victories for anybody, but we should see some progress on changing our politics through fracturing the GOP coalition further.

    As unpopular as this might be in some circles, I understand why a radical reform of the filibuster might not have been a good idea. We cannot assume a permanent majority for any party.

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    1. Filibuster reform also doesn't solve the problem in the House.

      The only way to beat this thing is to beat it.

      And yes, Mistermix was very prescient about fracturing the GOP. I don't think it looked as feasible 2 1/2 years ago.

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    2. I would totally disagree with you that it didn't look feasible 2 1/2 years ago. It's looked inevitable since 9/11. That is to say, we know the GOP built an alliance between moneyed elites (finance, oil, military-industrial) and voting masses through a combination of coded racism and appeal to niche issues like abortion and gun ownership. The deal was that the GOP would say they would outlaw abortion and give the ensuing newborns pistols at birth, and the voting masses would vote for legislators that would adopt policies designed to screw these voters economically.

      After 9/11 and then again 2002 and 2004, the GOP basically had a monopoly on the organs of governance. For decades, Democratic legislatures or presidents provided the convenient excuse GOP elites needed to explain why they didn't outlaw abortion on a national level. States are a different story, I'll grant. But when Bush won in 2004, he didn't bring a bill in 2005 to Congress to outlaw abortion. He brought a bill to outlaw Social Security. Political collapse followed, hastened by economic collapse.

      All this was inevitable once the GOP got a real lock on power, which it never fully had under Reagan or Bush I. It became clear that delivering on promises to its voters had never been on the agenda. If the long-term plan was to take full gov't power to deliver policies to the elite on a based motivated by OTHER policies, the plan was doomed to failure from the start. This, provided our elections actually remained real (if flawed) elections. This, more than anything else, is why we've seen such an intensification of GOP effort against real elections since 2004.

      So, actually, quite clearly inevitable, but unclear on the precise how and when.

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  2. Clearly 2014 is the only road for PBO to have a great final 2 yrs. But we also need those scared Dems to stand up straight. Next it seems to me that we cannot let a Repug/traitor win Presidency in 2016 or the work we have done will disappear.
    Smilingl8dy

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  3. I think the President will have a great presidency no matter what the GOP does or doesn't do. His calm determination in times of crisis have shown everyone how it's done. He set a standard for foreign policy that proves you don't have to overreact to achieve your goals. That right there is greatness.

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  4. "The only analogy that springs to mind when I look at the Republicans’ recent behavior is a bad divorce. Think of a situation where Lisa and Bob are getting a divorce, and Bob is so hell-bent on hurting Lisa that he doesn’t care about their kids or their bank account. Bob will deploy a hundred variations on the same tactic: put the Lisa in a bind where she has to choose between damaging the children and losing money. Lisa will lose money almost every time in order to save the children."

    To carry the analogy a little further, the media and other observers keep asking, "What's wrong with Lisa? Why can't she convince Bob to be more cooperative?"

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