See, we told you so. Despite the media reports of a stalemate in negotiations, Boehner and Obama are fairly close to striking a deal. In fact, they were never far apart from each other. Boehner has always agreed to the fundamental premise of raising taxes in exchange for phony baseline cuts without any concession from Obama on Obamacare. The only question was the headline number.
Boehner started off negotiations admitting to Obama and to the public that he would agree to raise taxes and would agree to lock in all of Obama’s spending levels, albeit at a slower growth rate. He never made the point that a number of pernicious Obamacare tax hikes are set to take effect in January, and that they must be on the table. Heck, even Al Franken (plus 15 other Dems) is complaining about the medical device tax.
So what happens when you start negotiations agreeing to 70% of your opponents demands while making no substantial demands from your end? Well, if the other side remains firm by asking more then they think they will get (negotiations 101), then they will remain intransigent until the 70%ers come in a little more. And that is exactly what has happened. Instead of making a firm ‘take it or leave it’ offer that changes the narrative from revenue to spending and Obamacare, Boehner continues to negotiate with himself in public. Now that he has signaled he would be open to larger tax increases, Obama has shown that he’ll come in from $1.6 trillion in revenue to $1.4 trillion.
Hence, once Obama sees that Boehner accedes to 80-85% of his demands, he’ll agree to split the difference, and call it a grand compromise at 90-95% his original request. That is a text book orchestration of bipartisanship in Washington. The evil party and the stupid party are conspiring to do something that is both evil and stupid.
The amazing thing is that even after capitulating on the entire notion of a balanced approach, Boehner’s approval in in the toilet. According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, registered voters disapprove of his negotiations by more than 2-1.
But doesn’t Boehner come across as more amicable by playing ‘follow the leader’ with Obama?
In politics, you either drive the narrative or become a victim of the narrative. You never win on defense. The only defense in politics is a relentless offense. There is no middle ground, especially for Republicans. So when you’re using all your media time to convey to the public a sense of weakness on taxes instead of going on offense on spending and Obamacare, you won’t even reap the benefits from appearing cordial.
Most Americans lack a coherent ideology like those of us who follow politics more closely. They are self-contradictory in their voting patterns. The one thing they are consistent about is that they like winners. You act like a winner and you will win. If you cede ground on an issue, even if the public originally sided with you, the image of a retreating loser will move the needle away from you.
Republicans have chosen not to fight on issues like immigration, gay marriage, Obamacare, and taxes. These are issues that we were winning in recent years, especially with regards to Obamacare. However, after Obama held the line on his consistent liberal views and showed a willingness to fight for them, while Republicans simultaneously retreated, the polls followed their flight.
If you pull out your forces from fighting an issue, you can’t complain that it’s a losing issue.