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Negotiation and conviction

In response to Looks Like Another Budget Deal Disaster, GOP:

I was holding my fire on this deal until there are formal announcements, but nothing I’ve heard about the negotiations fills me with optimism.  This is so lunkheaded that it’s downright weird.  The Democrats are riding the ObamaCare H-bomb all the way down to a fiery debacle in the midterm elections… and Republicans ride to their rescue by giving them everything they want, including an end to the only effective measure of fiscal restraint in years, namely sequestration?

Say, do you remember when the Democrats were howling at the top of their lungs that only traitors and saboteurs would ever think of changing the “settled law of the land?”  I guess that’s over, huh?  The Budget Control Act of 2011 is the settled law of the land, but they can’t wait to dispose of its remains.

I try not to throw criticism of the nefarious “GOP Establishment” around too lightly, but it certainly does seem as if the GOP Establishment is taking pains to avoid doing anything that would validate the stand people like Senators Cruz and Lee took against ObamaCare during the “shutdown” drama.  They’re determined to make media predictions of Republican political damage from the shutdown come true, no matter what the electorate thinks these days.  I guess the last thing they’re going to do is put ObamaCare funding back on the table and invite Democrats to commit political suicide by defending it before an angry public.  Maybe the Republican leadership can offer transportation services to get Democrat voters to the polls next November, just to show there are no hard feelings.

And how in the world can anyone fall for the old “spending cuts tomorrow, pinky swear” dodge?  That’s got to be the longest-running con in America.  Modest spending caps are intolerable now, but take them away and our successors in a future Congress will surely be eager to impose tougher ones, a decade down the line!

I got a chance to talk with Donald Trump after reviewing his book last year.  I thought his ideas about the art of political negotiation were interesting, but he was a bit too hard on Paul Ryan, who had not yet been tapped as vice-presidential candidate.  He said something intriguing in response: basically, a high opening bid in a negotiation not only gives you room to deal downward and still get what you want, but it’s also a sign of conviction, which is especially important when your negotiations have an audience of voters.  When GOP negotiators give away the store right off the bat, it makes them look unserious about fiscal restraint, both to dejected supporters and persuadable independents.  They must not hold their convictions very dear, if they’re willing to set them all aside in the name of striking a deal and avoiding a political crisis.

That’s a message you don’t get from Democrats, who adamantly refuse to accept the kind of narrative that has been forced down Republican throats since the shutdown drama.  Even as some of them run away from ObamaCare to get re-elected next year, they’ll never buy into a narrative that it was an existential crisis brought about by deep flaws in Party ideology.  They’ll never give away everything just to get a deal.  No matter how many bloody noses they take on something like gun control, they never admit that the crusade was wrong-headed, its proponents were extremists who alienated the voters, or that the ideology has been permanently defeated.  They’ll never publicly embrace the notion that their gun-control push ruined Obama’s second term, even though privately some of them agree with that analysis.  

But here’s the GOP, acting as though it must remain chastised in the aftermath of the shutdown confrontation… even though Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and their allies were so obviously right all along.

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