Since the Democratic Party began taking steps in the late 1980s to position itself more toward the center without completely losing its identity, the American left has been in constant tension. That's not a condemnation. In a two-party system and a country of 300,000,000 people there are always going to be intra-party coalitions that have to learn how to live with one another.
Liberals and leftists can look at the same thing and see totally different realities. Liberals look at the deal Senate Democrats made to reopen the government and fund CHIP for six years as a strategic win; leftists look at it as another capitulation for a promise (a DACA vote) that everyone who isn't in a medically-induced coma knows will not be kept. Liberals want to amass victories like this and demonstrate to voters that they are better at governing, have better issue positions, and aren't completely cold-blooded lizard people monsters like Republicans. Leftists feel like the Democratic Party could mobilize more non-voters by taking stronger, more strident stands that will appeal to people lacking much energy to pick through the fine details of policy negotiations.
One group sees capitulation; the other sees a good chess move.
If I tend toward Leftist it's not because I think Liberals are factually wrong; it's inarguable that getting CHIP off the table from the position of a minority in both chambers is an accomplishment. My issue is that I think the strategy that such Wins add up to a convincing message is flawed. It should add up to that, but it never seems to happen.
A friend and colleague posted four points in favor of the compromise. I think all have merit, and also have obvious counterarguments.
1. They don't get blamed for a shutdown – A lot of people do not even know the government is shut down, to say nothing of the many more people who have no idea why it is shut down or who is responsible for it. Democrats are constantly gaming these Blame/Credit scenarios without recognizing that, you know, a third of Americans don't even know which party controls Congress. The strategy depends on people knowing the details. And only a small fraction of political junkies do. And think about how many people will forget all about this in a week, let alone by November. Having "Winners and Losers" implies people are paying attention and have accurate information. OK.
2. If DACA doesn't become law between now and Feb. 8th the Democrats can blame the Republicans. – And Republicans will blame Democrats. Democrats will believe the Democrats and Republicans will believe Republicans.
3. If it does pass, they can claim credit. – The GOP will also claim credit; see 1 and 2.
4) They can always try again after the 8th without CHIP on the line. – Sure, getting CHIP off the chopping block is good. I think this overestimates the extent to which the people taking to the streets by the tens of thousands and yelling for Trump's head on a platter are going to get real enthusiastic in response to messaging like "We got a six-year extension on CHIP!" or "In early January we proposed X Y and Z but Trump rejected it!"
Beltway media personalities who embrace the Reasonable Person – Centrist persona like a second skin are forever talking about "optics." How is this gonna look? How will the spin play out? If the past two years have not convinced them yet that this political system has evolved beyond spin to creating parallel realities, nothing will.
I'd argue that "We are doing everything we can to work for our legislative priorities" makes sense as a message intellectually, but forever harping on the word Bipartisan and calling anything less than the worst possible outcome a victory frustrates as many angry, emotional people as it appeals to people who watch the news every day. The natural constituency for the Democratic Party is too busy trying to stay afloat to care about procedure and political gamesmanship.
Compromise brings short-term victories but undermine the ability to pursue long-term ones. Sometimes making a deal is smarter but fighting is worth more down the road.