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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Farewell for Now Post 

I'm off to Europe for a week and a half, so I won't be posting (like you'll notice a difference). Anyway, here's a good post by Matt Y. on Tapped:
LEARNING TO LOSE. If I may add yet another reason to think the "no compromise" stance on Social Security is the right one, I think looking at the nuclear option fallout demonstrates once again that the Democratic Party needs to learn how to lose. Not how to lose elections (they're pretty good at that), but how to lose congressional votes. They need to come to grips with the fact that even though the whole party felt cheated by the 2000 election result, they really and truly lost the 2002 and 2004 elections. The Republicans have majorities everyone. If their party, united, really and truly wants to rewrite the rules of the Senate, stack the judiciary with nutballs, eliminate Social Security, invade Iran, or do whatever else it is they can come up with, well, then, it's going to happen.

The only genuine remedy Democrats have to this stuff is to try and win the elections in 2006 and 2008. They can't really do anything to force the Republicans not to do it. The only people who can block a maximalist agenda are Republicans, either those who adopt a posture of moderation out of principle, or those who do so out of electoral cowardice. Given the underlying power dynamics, giving the Republicans half a loaf today in no sense prevents them from asking for the other half tomorrow. It would be different if the Democrats controlled even one center of power and were genuinely in a position to block action and enforce the terms of deals, but they don't. All that compromises do is shift the policy status quo to the right, thus shifting what counts as a "moderate" position for vulnerable Republicans to take.

Think back to the 2001 tax cut. Moderate Republicans were unhappy with its size. So moderate Democrats joined with them to slightly pare it down and then vote the thing through Congress. Ostensibly, the Republican moderates thus got all the tax-cutting they wanted. But did that stop them from voting for tax cuts the next time around? No. It just led them to slightly pare down the size of the next cuts. Then Bush proposed a third round of tax cuts. And the moderate Republicans pared it down slightly once again. If they partially privatize Social Security in this Congress, the GOP hardliners will just push for more privatization in the next Congress.

The only way to really stop the tax-cutting binge, the only way to really save the judiciary, the only way to really save Social Security, the only way to really do anything is to win some elections. If you win elections you get power and then you can make deals. Until then, it's just a question of how much you lose on any given day and how you lose it.

Viewed in that light, compromises are counterproductive. They give vulnerable Republicans the cover they need to vote for measures of questionable popularity, and they make it harder to run against vulnerable members in '06 or '08. If the Republicans propose something that's worth supporting on the merits it would be wrong, of course, to opportunistically oppose it. But until they do (and I'm not holding my breath) the only thing to do is to vote "no," say why you're voting "no," and prepare to win some elections. The pressure needs to be on the moderate and vulnerable Republicans. Either they face down their own leadership in the caucus room, or else they face the music from the voters back home when they cave to the hard-right agenda.
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