Monday, May 23, 2016

Fight to lose, or fight to win

[This was a comment on a FaceBook, and since we still haven't managed to browbeat Geoff into starting his own blog, I decided to post it so it could be linked to. The title is mine. - AC]

by Geoff Beckman

The people who want more should be as loud and nasty as they possibly can. That's essential if you want a strong bill passed.

"Good cop, bad cop" is the single best strategy for getting a bill through. Go to the guy blocking your bill and say:

"Look, buddy, I'm your friend-- I'm trying to help you. I know what you mean-- I agree. But we have to pass SOMETHING. Be reasonable.

"These guys to my left are crazy-- they want the whole world. If you block my bill, I promise that THEY will come back-- and you'll hate what THEY do a lot more than you hate my bill.

"And I gotta warn you, old buddy. if my bill goes down and it's you or them, I'll have to stand with THEM-- my district won't let me avoid passing a bill. So this is your last chance-- help me here or you'll get nothing."

The premiere of the HBO movie on Lyndon Johnson and the civil rights bill is playing in the background. I'm not going to plug a movie I haven't finished watching, but Bryan Cranston is doing a good job of showing how this works in pretty much every scene to the Southern Democrats.

Anyway, this strategy-- carrot and stick-- is the way we KNOW for a fact that neoliberals like Clinton (both of them) and Obama WANT the policies they pass.

If you want to pass more liberal bills, you do everything you can to make the hippies look like powerful monsters. You have to make the right-wingers fear THEM more than they fear YOU.

When you systematically disempower the political forces that serve as "the stick"-- when you make public statements telling the left to back off BEFORE you start to negotiate-- the enemy KNOWS you aren't the moderate trying to hold the bad people back. They beat you and they win.


Two other developments made these negotiations especially one-sided. First, Jon Boner could say-- in all seriousness-- that he was trying to hold off powerful, unreasonable forces. Compared to the teabaggers. Boner ALWAYS was more moderate.

Also, one of the tools in the carrot-stick technique is "If we don't compromise, I'll lose my next election." When every district is gerrymandered to ensure that the seat is safe, that dog won't hunt.


At one point, I was willing to believe that Obama-- who did nothing as a state senator or a US senator-- was just very stupid about politics.

But if you look at the stuff he's done-- and is doing now-- you see that it wasn't an accident that OFA went belly-up. He wanted that to die.

PS: Obama doesn't really want Merrick Garland confirmed. If he did, all he would need to do is use this technique. Here's a pitch I've used to wrestle myriad right-wingers into submission:

"Guys, you better vote right now..Donald Trump is gonna self-destruct-- you all know that. If Hillary wins, she'll nominate someone more liberal. And if SANDERS wins, he might nominate Saul Alinsky's ghost.

"Plus, you have the majority in the Senate now-- and since 2/3 of the people up for re-election are "R", you're probably going to lose control.

"You really want Tammy Duckworth, Ted Strickland and Katie McGinty voting to confirm Hillary's nominee-- instead of Mark Kirk, Rob Portman and Pat Toomey voting on Garland?"

You'd have a vote by July. But he didn't do it. And Hillary promising to keep Garland blew it up. She's too stupid to be president; if she is elected, she'll be a one-termer who gets routed on Capitol Hill.

-- Geoff Beckman


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