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.

38 thoughts on “STEPS AHEAD”

  • Of course, everything you posted in this regard is 100% correctomundo. It's a win-win/no-win situation the Dems find themselves in right now, and although I wanted them to hold out a bit longer to shiv the GOP even more, I think Dr. Schumer made a sound choice to take the 'point made' ribbon on this one. Wish that didn't sound so smarmy but that's the reality of modern divisive minority party politics. What galls me the most is that the ready access to truly hypocritical statements made by current GOP Skeletors seems to have gone totally MIA in the media, save for a very few choice nuggets. They're just too afraid to perhaps lose access to the Skeletors if they're seen as being even a teensy bit mean to them, so it goes unused. Wussie Media… BAD!!!!

  • When the House passed the original bill about a week ago, I found out that my rep, Henry Cuellar of Texas' 28th District voted yea. I was furious. Right before the vote, he took a picture with some Dreamers in support. He's also a border rep. Yet he voted away any support that he has given. Now, in reality, his vote was absolutely meaningless. The GOP in the house would've passed it without him with ease. But I was angry at the symbolism of it all. How could a Democrat, a Hispanic, BORDER Democrat vote against his own promises. That is the problem we face now.

    Schumer is smart. He probably did the right thing. But the messaging and the symbolism is rank with weakness. Then another question pops up, how much are we willing to sacrifice for a win? I work with people who rely on Medicare and Medicaid, SSI and SSDI; and I wonder how long would I have held up before passing a budget?

    This is the world of our politics now, who are we willing to sacrifice? What do we consider appropriate collateral damage? Republicans know to hit us where we are weakest: our need of decency. Democrats, almost as a rule, will go for decency. Cuellar did it, Obama did it, Chuck Schumer did it.

    I don't know if I would've made the same decision Chuck did. Democrats were given an impossible hand and fought a battle that all of us were ill-prepared for.

  • The Democratic voters suffer most of the damage from the government shutdown. So, the Democrats did get two benefits from the deal (1) CHIP funding, and (2) terminating the government shutdown (at least temporarily).

    I am dubious that continuing the government shutdown would mobilize more non-voters (lacking much energy to pick through the fine details of policy negotiations) 9 months from now ! They'll continue not to vote based on the excuse that their vote won't do anything — however, they don't apply that logic to playing the lottery (legal and illegal).

  • Schumer had to make a move before 9 Dem Senators disagreed with him. The pressure on red state Dems is immense, especially the tired narratives of "weak liberal Dems on Defense" and "Dems in Disarray." Anyone with a brain rolls their eyes at those narratives, but red state Dems don't have that luxury. The only way they can barely win is by wrapping themselves in the flag and full voiced support of Crapitalism.

    Millions are not going to take to the streets to support the Dreamers. That would require too many self-absorbed whites waking up from their diabetic comas and feeling like that issue impacted them. It does, but 99% of people are too stupid to see it. They'll simply see "Brown=Foreign" on their local TV news.

  • PhoenixRising says:

    "Schumer had to make a move before 9 Dem Senators disagreed with him."

    Winner winner chicken dinner!

    However, I am hopeful that my fellow 2nd-4th gen Americans WILL in fact step up for American kids whose parents overstayed a visa in the 1990s. Let's turn our efforts to selling other voters on helping the kids next door with a permanent legalization bill. We've already paid for these immigrant kids to attend public schools, borrow money for college, drive on our roads and go to the doctor with our taxes–let's ask them to stay here and pay us back by working or starting businesses. It's what makes America great!

    See how easy that was?

  • StrokeCity FC says:

    I feel like six years of CHIP funding that neither Trump nor the GOP can take away is being undersold. This is a tremendous, tremendous value.

  • This is hostage negotiation 101. Schumer extracted one hostage from the madmen (CHIP) you keep working them to get the others out. There were 8 million kids facing losing their health insurance. There are 200K DACA kids. I count this as a win. It not a victory but it is a win…

  • It's important, I think, for all of us to get to a place where we understand that denying health care to children is a big deal to Republicans, but they're willing to be talked out of it.

    They're just vile. I don't think everyone on Team D has internalized that.

  • Schumer pocketed the substantial win on CHIP and, in a fairly short period of time, can still bleed the GOP over DACA with another shutdown to come if they don't give up the second hostage.

    I think he actually has the best of both worlds here.

    I also don't think your liberal vs. left frame works well for strategic analysis. What matters here is whether you can count cards, not what your ideological predisposition might be.

  • There's nothing I have more contempt for than media types speculating about how things "look" as if they are mere passive observers of optics. Will this be bad or good for the Democrats? That totally depends how your editor frames the headline, doesn't it?

    Fox News, on the other hand, knows by saying "This is bad for the Democrats" they make it so.

    My next Christmas wish will be for Democratic politicians stop reading the papers and just do their fucking jobs. The headlines can be moved by sheer force of will. We squishy libs aren't very good at those types of things though.

  • Bessemer Mucho says:

    I really like that hostage negotiation metaphor, but it can only be carried so far. The hostage takers are surrounded by hundreds of police, SWAT teams, snipers, you name it. The hostages are their only leverage. In this case, the Rs have the Ds surrounded; it is as if the hostage takers are begging the cops: Please let us release a hostage!

  • I agree with the majority of commenters here: Schumer extracted a great concession (6 year extension of CHIP) from a position of weakness. He also extracted the public promise from McConnell to bring immigration to the floor for debate, an open amendment process and a vote before the Feb 8 expiration of the CR. So Leftists can be angry or disappointed but I think Schumer proved himself again to be a better negotiator and shrewder politician than he's credited for. We will see if McConnell keeps his word. If he doesn't, we are back to square one in a few weeks and Schumer can extract more concessions.

    And frankly, I'd give Trump $20B for his wall in exchange for a permanent fix (and route to citizenship) for the Dreamers. The wall is symbolic nonsense, giving the Dreamers a legislated route to citizenship is a real solution.

  • OK. I'm not interested in watching the horse race, but before I found out what the column was about I read your statement about what the Democrats did in the '80s and I think your memory is failing you. "Since the Democratic Party began taking steps in the late early 1980s to position itself more toward the center move to the right…" You really should take time to read Al From's book, The NEW Democrts and the Return to Power. He was quite clear that the only thing they were interested in was power, they had no desire to help people, and they believed, sincerely, that the New Deal was outdated and old fashioned. That's why Al From created the Democratic Leadership Council and why many party leaders went with him and got Bill Clinton elected.

  • This thing really needs an edit function. I should not have said they did not want to help people. Most of them did and I'm just being grumpy about it. Al From worked hard in the Civil Rights movement and thought that he understood what was best for poor people of color. He sincerely wanted to help them, by destroying welfare.

  • I want to throw this out there: Don’t forget that Hispanic voters are in the dog house for not turning out for Clinton, especially in Florida. Recall that shortly after the Election results, the Obama Administration ended the special immigration status for Cuban refugees. Never underestimate spite.

  • Saw a relevant editorial cartoon:
    But possibly the question is less left – right, more "Who will the economy be optimized for?", if it's done for the majority of the population, the 1% will do fine, taking their stimulus in increased business. If the 1% is the center of attention, I see a risk of national decline, in my opinion, FDR is still relevant.

  • I guess I'm too confused to be a real progressive.

    Let's say that Shumer held fast, and that, mirabile dictu, all the red-state Senators held fast with him.

    What do real progressives think would have happened ?

    My expectation would be that the MSM and Fox would continually excoriate the Dems for the filibuster and shutdown, and that the R Wurlitzer, in high gear, would once again successfully catapult the propaganda. The Dems would begin to take heat from those of their own voters who were hurt by the shutdown at the same time that their public relations position was deteriorating. In the end, they'd be forced to fold, without SCHIP, and DACA would be dead until 2021.

    Could someone who thinks Shumer sold us out please describe the endgame that they envision?

  • They're never going to build a fucking border wall.

    I live in Pittsburgh. We've been trying to get the lock-and-dam system on our rivers rebuilt for 30 years. If you don't know what it is, it's a system used extensively by the fossil fuels industry to transport coal and oil, so it's right in the Republican wheelhouse. And both Republicans and Democrats have agreed for 30 years the lock-and-dam system is falling apart.

    Yet Congress won't appropriate the money.

    If they won't appropriate the money for that infrastructure — which is already in place, and works, and costs a hell of a lot less than a border wall — why would they appropriate the money for a border wall that won't work?

    Sure, just like the Strategic Defense Initiative, they're going to piss away a lot of money on contracts and studies and proposals, but no one other than Cletus and Billy Bob are stupid enough to think the United States is going to build an $18 billion border wall.

    On the other hand, they are going to fund health insurance for 8 million poor children for the next six years.

    Yes, I understand the Dreamers will probably still get screwed. But at least that can is kicked down the road a little bit. (And does anyone think that Congress can pass a veto-proof immigration bill that Donny Dipshit will actually sign? I don't.)

    For fuck's sake, people.

    I'm about as left-wing as you get without actually being a literal communist, but stop lighting your hair on fire and check your damned privilege — this deal helps a hell of a lot of poor families.

  • Eh, Republicans were always going to extend CHIP. The cost estimates are negative – the government saves money by doing it. And no, the bulk of the people on CHIP are Republicans, not Democrats.

    Here's their message: “Today is a win for the millions of kids and their families that rely on CHIP and its vital services. After a completely unnecessary and avoidable shutdown, families across the country can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they will continue having access to affordable, quality health insurance,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX). “We are glad that Senate Democrats finally came to their senses and put politics aside to take care of kids and pregnant women.”

    Does that sound like a group that was unwilling to extend CHIP?

    The important message for Democrats to convey, in an atmosphere of hatred for Trump, is "we are the opposite". And this is the message they are utterly allergic and opposed to conveying. At every turn, Democratic leaders convey that they stand with Trump, want to work with him, want to deal with him, want to support him. They convey that any differences are only minor and superficial.

    In Canada, for example, it's quite common for opposition parties to vote against 100% of the ruling party's bills. 100%! Every party! Every member of every party! Occasionally they may vote in support of something that is right in their core message, but mostly… 100% opposition. Because the important part is conveying that you are different from the other party and that you stand for something different.

    This is the most hated administration in history. It would be a huge political winner to simply say "we vote no on everything". And still, 75% of elected Democrats including the entire leadership, stands with Trump except for minor quibbles.

    Imagine if the Eagles head coach got up and said "We're all going to work together to make sure the Patriots win. We have some minor differences about how they should win, but both teams basically agree: the Patriots should win. We want to work with them to make that win happen."

    Just think about the reaction that would get from Eagles fans. That's the reaction the Democrats are getting every day.

  • I'm with most people here that the Dems were forced into a tough position on this shutdown drama. They did get CHIP, but as someone points out, the Republicans probably weren't not going to re-authorize CHIP at some point, but they sure as hell might have made the extension shorter than 6 years as things dragged on.

  • @SafetyMan! I'm not sure you're clear on the facts. The Cubans in Miami are solid right-wing voters. They've been cosseted and lovingly treated for 50-plus years now because Argle-barge Coommooonizm. The originals who fled were the rich who could afford to leave. Other Hispanics in Florida can't stand them because they're the opposite.

  • This morning reminded me of a 'Honey, Don't you want a man like me?" (with apologies to Frank Zappa – all praises and blessings be upon him forever and ever)

    "They [Lefty Purity Angels] called Chuck a s***, a pig and a whore
    A bitch and a c*** and they slammed the door
    In a petulant frenzy!
    On the sofa they weeps
    Boo hoo hoo hoo
    they weeps and they peeps
    Through the curtain"

    The purity angels were throwing a big tantrum on twitter this morning until folks started towing the line put forth by Ezra Klein on Vox (and Ed here) that CHIP is a pretty good win considering the D's are in a very weak position, and it doesn't mean the D's have abandoned the Dreamers (that fight is merely delayed).

    I agree fully with Ed's 4 points above. I also agree with his focus on the 'optics' obsessed MSM concern troll spin machine that will manufacture the overall public perception and attitude around this government shutdown.

    The mission of the corporate media will be to ensure that Chuck Schumer does not come out of this looking too good and that the D's do not get too much credit for being a party that champions children and dreamers. To let the D's take possession of the Fortress of Moral Purity would make flogging a 'Both Sides Do it' editorial line more difficult to sell and those pharma ads are intended for people of all political persuasions so the million-dollar-hairdos have to carefully maintain their bullshit journalistic 'objectivity'.

    PowerPost Analysis
    The Daily 202: Seven takeaways from the failed Democratic government shutdown
    – this made me mad as hell. The headline and section headers alone assign blame to Democrats and push the 'they caved' narrative along with 'Dems are WEAK' and other lovely assumptions the author would like you to swallow whole.

    FFS I thought the WaPo was supposed to have a liberal bias.

    I have no doubt that the 'the weakling Dems caved' narrative will be what floats to the top and becomes dominant as the conventional wisdom in the coming days. Thanks corporate media.

    Purity angels need to ask themselves who they are helping when they rip apart the D's.

  • MS reports from his planet :

    And still, 75% of elected Democrats including the entire leadership, stands with Trump except for minor quibbles.

    What color is the sky there, MS?

  • Anyone here who believes that a promise from McConnell is worth anything is… not the pragmatists/realists in this situation (and has the political memory of a gnat).

    Over the last few months, Dems have rolled over and pretty much given the GOP everything they've wanted (hell, they even offered to authorize funds to build the wall). The idea that Dems have the stomach for another shut down or are going to fight any harder for the Dreamers down the road is ludicrous. Doug Jones has voted for Trump-approved positions exactly 100% of the time. The idea that stacking the Senate with more of these kinds of Dems is the path to victory beggars belief.

  • I've yet to hear anyone articulate what a democratic path to victory on DACA through a shut down would look like. Does anyone think that the tea party caucus would have caved and given the Dems everything in exchange for nothing? Would Dems be willing to swallow the concessions that would be required? From my leftier- than-thou friends' respose to Schumer' s offer to fund the wall, I think not.

  • Dems have rolled over

    Republicans have the majority in both Houses, and absolute control over which bills get reported out of committee, and of the schedule. And they have the Presidency. And SCOTUS.

    The brave assault by the British 4th and 13th Light Dragoons, 17th Lancers, and the 8th and 11th Hussars on 25 October 1854 was everything wonderful, passionate, honorable, and displayed courage and discipline beyond the last measure. They were cut to ribbons in minutes, because the enemy had a superior force in superior positions.

    Passion and principle are wonderful things, but there is such a thing as reality, and no sense in being a damned fool.

    Believe me: whole armies have prayed fervently
    to God all night and meant it,
    and been slaughtered anyway.
    Brutality wins frequently,
    and large outcomes have turned on the
    of a mechanical device, viz. radar.

    True, sometimes valor counts for something,
    as at Thermopylae. Sometimes being right,
    though ultimate virtue by agreed tradition
    is decided by the winner.
    Sometimes men throw themselves on grenades
    and burst like paper bags of guts
    to save their comrades.
    I can admire that.
    But rats and cholera have won many wars.
    Those, and potatoes
    or the absence of them.

  • I don't follow how any legislation "gets CHIP off the table" – it seems *entirely* plausible that ZEGS Ryan introduces a bill specifically to re-defund it "because of deficit concerns".

    Sure, the optics are garbage if you know the score. But as we've seen, the press is going to report whatever story they like – and Very Serious Reporter Is Very Serious About Fiscal Responsibility is a perennial favorite.

  • Agreed with joel hanes. This was a loss but it wasn't yesterday's loss – it was the result of losing the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014, and the Presidency in 2016. It's simply not possible to get legislative wins without winning legislative elections and being in the majority. You could argue about how much those losses were the fault of the Democrats, but as we're standing here in January 2018, nothing is going to get through Congress unless McConnell and Ryan OK it, and even then it can get vetoed. Democrats can't expect any legislative wins until they can pull enough weight to make them happen. They should fight whenever they can win, but show me where the minority party has ever succeeded in forcing the majority party to pass something they didn't want to by means of a shutdown.

  • Wow, Ed. Super childish of you to block me from Facebook while you make fun of me. Have fun in your echo chamber.

  • it seems *entirely* plausible that ZEGS Ryan introduces a bill specifically to re-defund it "because of deficit concerns"

    Yeah, I wouldn't put it past him, but Ryan's purported integrity / morality are what would prevent this from happening.

    Are you aware that SCHIP actually _reduces_ the deficit, and so defunding it increases the deficit ?

    For that reason, there actually are some Rs who support SCHIP, and the optics of "killing children and costing the government even more money in the process" are very bad indeed — so bad that McConnell eventually had to surrender the hostage in the just-concluded kerfuffle.

  • are what would prevent

    should be
    are NOT what would prevent

    I regret not proofreading before hitting [submit]

  • @ Katydid

    I am aware that the Cuban vote in Miami swings Republican, but I’m still willing to bet spite played a role. The Obama Administration was taking steps to normalize relations with Cuba anyway, but I question the timing.

  • @SafetyMan! What you said makes no sense. The Cubans–who spent half a centurry automatic citizenship if they can get one foot on American soil–don't just lean Republican; they're extremely Republican. It was time to end the special preferences for them, long past time. When Elian Gonzalez was kidnapped from his father and rescued from a swamped boat, the Cubans fought the US Gov't to keep him here despite the fact they had no right to demand this. They just expect special preferences. Their neighbors, the Haitians (who toil for Trump at Maralago) have no such protections. The Puerto Ricans–who *are* American citizens–get no respect from the USA and certainly have seen no preferences after the storm.

    Spite had nothing to do with ending the Cubans' special treatment and I'm actually disappointed that you feel that way.

  • @ joel hanes "Are you aware that SCHIP actually _reduces_ the deficit, and so defunding it increases the deficit ?"

    Certainly – when measured against current law, the projection is that CHIP funding is more cost-effective for the people covered than the ACA subsidy.

    HOWEVER, Ryan et al want to get *rid* of that subsidy. I won't be surprised in the least when they try to sneak it into the February 8th thing as a poison pill. The GOP is not in Congress to make functional policy: they are there to loot, sabotage & destroy.

  • Okay, wow, my last comment was downright incoherent. Sorry! What I meant to say was that the Cuban community in Miami has always been pandered to especially by the Republicans, and it's long time that ended. Then I tried to bring up the Elian Gonzalez story and borked that up, too–the US gov't ruled to return him to the father in Cuba who his Cuban mother had stolen him from, and the Miami Cuban distant relatives–who had never met the kid–decided that THEY should have him, and caused all kinds of rioting and chaos.

    The non-Cuban Hispanics in Florida are all really disgusted with the Miami Cubans, and after Hurricane Maria, it's obvious even to non-Hispanics that the Puerto Ricans (who are American citizens) have it far, far worse than the Miami Cubans.

  • A supporter once called out, "Governor Stevenson, all thinking people are for you!" And Adlai Stevenson answered, "That's not enough. I need a majority."

    There is no way around it.

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