There is a miscalculation at the core of Democratic strategies for ending the shutdown and avoiding default. Democrats keep saying, “They wouldn’t really do that.” But this calculation doesn’t “get it” about who and what the country is dealing with.
Here is the miscalculation: If you listen to right-wing radio, watch FOX News and read their online media and take it seriously (because they do) then you would know that many on the right don’t want to live in a country that has Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, the minimum wage, Food Stamps, immigration, public schools, infant nutrition programs and the rest of the things government does to make our lives better. And they don’t want anyone else to live in a country that has those things, either.
They are willing to destroy the village to keep the village from having those things. If you don’t “get that” before entering into negotiations, you’re at risk of making a terrible mistake — like the sequester.
Remember what led to the sequester? There was a fundamental miscalculation that led to these terrible economy-killing cuts taking effect. White House negotiators believed the sequester cuts were so terrible and stupid that Republicans wouldn’t really let that happen. So they offered these cuts as an inducement — a worst alternative — to coming to an agreement about taxes and cuts. (Never mind the mistake that any deficit reduction at all right now is economy-killing.) The idea was that the sequester cuts are so terrible and have such a disastrous effect on the country and economy — and people — that “they wouldn’t really do that.”
But they did that. Now many Republicans are celebrating the sequester cuts, calling the sequester an accomplishment. They are celebrating the damage that they have caused to our government.
If you “got it” about who they are then you knew that of course they would do that. Offering the terrible sequester cuts because they were so terrible and stupid that “they wouldn’t really do that” was a fundamental miscalculation of how terrible and stupid — and destructive — their insular ideology has become. It was based on a fundamental misunderestimation of who they are.
Misunderestimating Who They Are
Are enough Democrats listening to right-wing radio, watching FOX, reading the right’s online media? Are they taking what they see and hear seriously? We listen to Rush Limbaugh and laugh. But they listen to Rush Limbaugh and believe.
Are Democrats and the President making a fundamental miscalculation by assuming the right-wingers of the Republican Party don’t want the country to default, and the terrible economic destruction that would bring? A strategy based on the idea that movement conservatives will yield rather than do that much harm to the country and economy and people, like the sequester strategy, is a fundamental miscalculation, fundamentally misunderestimating who they are: They do want things to be that bad!
Don’t Give In
The strategy of offering terrible and stupid cuts to an opposition that is bent on destruction only led to terrible and stupid cuts becoming the ongoing baseline, with them celebrating the sequester as a victory. Trying to scare and shame them with the terrible specter of the destruction from default could be offering them just what they want.
I am certainly not saying here that Democrats should give in to avoid the destruction Republicans are willing to cause. Giving in — or miscalculating and accidentally handing them what they want (like the sequester) — means they will just escalate the destruction — as they have done each time. That has been their game and will be their game. It’s just time to realize this and change strategies.
It is late in the game, much harm has been done, much harm is being done, but it is time for a shift from “get along” strategies to reach “bipartisan compromise” to instead realizing this crowd fundamentally opposes and seeks to dismantle the very things that most of us treasure about our country.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary