House Republicans have called the presidential race: Obama is re-elected! I know this because Politico is reporting that Republicans are already complaining about forcing rich people to pay a little more in taxes, House GOP Warns Obama to Think Twice on Tax Hikes. But that title makes it sound like the Republicans will make Obama pay for going against their wishes. This isn’t the case.
The aide for one of the Republican bigwigs in the House told Politico, “Poisoning the well right out of the gate makes no sense if the goal is a productive second term.” That’s a belly laugh line. Just on the surface: do the Republicans really think we believe that they will work with the president regardless? But there is a deeper level that is funny but also annoying: the Frum Conjecture. This is the idea that if only Obama will agree with the Republicans on policy, they will go along with him. (Note that with healthcare reform, Obama did go along with the Republicans and they still didn’t offer any support.)
Of course, the Democrats aren’t falling for this nonsense. They are already scoffing at a “compromise” from Republicans to make the cut off for the top tax bracket $1 million instead of $250,000. You can imagine what would happen if the Democrats went along with this proposal: not a single Republican would vote for it. Chief of staff for Harry Reid, David Krone, says, “We haven’t even had the election yet and already the Republicans are drawing a line in the sand. It’s really sad to see.”
Last night on 60 Minutes, in a segment Is the U.S. Senate broken? Steve Kroft bemoaned the fact that members of the Senate couldn’t just compromise. Fools like Kroft seem to think that compromise is good in and of itself. But normally, compromise comes out of the wish on both sides to get part of their agenda enacted. Now, the Republican agenda is simply to destroy the government—or at least the parts that help the poor. And as we’ve seen, no amount of compromise will make the Republicans yield. It is in their interest to be intransigent, and reporting like Kroft’s that perpetuates the equivalency myth means Republicans pay absolutely no price for it.
It works like this. The Nazi Party wants to kill all Jews; the Social Democrats want to kill none. They argue. The Nazi Party wants to kill all Jews; the Social Democrats want to kill 10%. They argue. The Nazi Party wants to kill all Jews; the Social Democrats want to kill 25%. The media are exasperated, “Why can’t the Nazis and Social Democrats agree to compromise?!”
That’s what we get in the United States. The Democratic Party does compromise and the Republican Party does not. The fact that the two parties don’t reach consensus does not mean that the two parties are not compromising; it means that one party is not compromising. And sometimes, a party should not compromise. Killing half the Jews is not an acceptable compromise. And in the case of the Democrats, destroying half the social safety net is not an acceptable compromise.
I had never thought that the Republicans would work with Obama in a second term. I suspect it will be better than the first term, because Obama seems to have learned that the only way to get Republicans to work with him is to force them. But they certainly won’t work with Obama as readily as they would Romney. But that isn’t because of compromise. That is because Romney has the same vile policy ideas as the Congressional Republicans.
Obama will not get the Republicans to compromise by playing nice. He will get compromise by playing mean. And if House Republicans are already starting to squeal, it just may work out.