Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has once again made his intentions clear.
is it realistic that Biden might find GOP cooperation on his agenda?— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) May 5, 2021
Senate leader McConnell: “100% of my focus is standing up to this administration. What we have is total unity, from Collins to Cruz, in opposition to what the new administration is trying to do to this country"
As some in the media pointed out, that was reminiscent of what McConnell said in 2010.
5/5/21, Mitch McConnell: "100% of my focus is on stopping this new administration."— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 5, 2021
10/23/10, Mitch McConnell: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
None of this should come as any surprise because, as I wrote more than a year ago, McConnell had already promised a return to total obstruction if a Democrat was elected president.
During her press conference on Wednesday, Jen Psaki was asked about McConnell's most recent remark and demonstrated why she is such an effective spokesperson for this administration.
Psaki responds to McConnell saying "100% of my focus" is on "standing up" to Biden administration: "The contrast for people to consider is 100% of our focus is on delivering relief to the American people, and getting the pandemic under control, and putting people back to work" pic.twitter.com/wmUlUPYzLF— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 5, 2021
First of all, she drew the contrast. If Republicans are 100 percent committed to stopping anything this administration tries to do, Democrats are 100 percent committed to delivering relief to the American people. Boom! The message: while Republicans play political power games, Democrats are delivering for the people.
But then Psaki did something that tends to drive liberals crazy. She talked about how the Biden administration was continuing to reach out to Republicans and said that the door is always open to work together on providing relief to the American people. Why would she add that?
The first thing to note in answering that question is something former Republican congressional staffer Mike Lofgren wrote back in 2011.
A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.
Lofgren went on to point out that this Republican strategy works with low information voters who respond to the dysfunction in Washington with "a pox on both your houses." Even more importantly, it works with a media that is committed to bothsiderism.
The media are also complicit in this phenomenon. Ever since the bifurcation of electronic media into a more or less respectable “hard news” segment and a rabidly ideological talk radio and cable TV political propaganda arm, the “respectable” media have been terrified of any criticism for perceived bias.
During Obama's presidency, I wrote a lot about his strategy of using conciliatory rhetoric as a ruthless strategy. Here's how Mark Schmitt described Obama's "theory of change" in 2007.
The reason the conservative power structure has been so dangerous, and is especially dangerous in opposition, is that it can operate almost entirely on bad faith. It thrives on protest, complaint, fear: higher taxes, you won't be able to choose your doctor, liberals coddle terrorists, etc. One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that's not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists -- it's a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.
That strategy wasn't very successful - primarily due to the fact that the media's commitment to bothsiderism kept them from exposing the fact that Republicans had nothing. Instead, when we weren't being subjected to stories about how the two sides failed to reach an agreement, we were told that Obama was aloof and didn't reach out to Republicans enough.
While the undertone of bothsiderism is still prevalent in the media, the direction the Republican Party has taken over the last few years made it much more difficult to maintain. What Psaki did during the press conference on Wednesday was to first of all point out the difference in focus between McConnell and Biden. But in reaffirming that the door is always open, she also drew a contrast with McConnell's obstruction. In doing so, she made it much more difficult to blame both sides for digging in their heels and refusing to cooperate. Well done, Madam Press Secretary!