Suggestion for Democrats: gloves off, no cooperation with Republicans

Soft and fuzzy Democrats

Republicans in the U.S. Senate have waged at least a nine-year war against the Democrats. The first eight years included obstruction of President Barack Obama at every turn, as the GOP plotted on Obama’s inauguration night. This Republican obstruction culminated in the unprecedented move of refusing to hold a confirmation hearing and vote on President Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, even though the Republicans had 10 months to do so. Now that a Republican is in the White House, Donald Trump, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and their partisan cohorts suddenly want the Democrats to bend in order to pass so-called “bipartisan” legislation that is written by Republicans, typically with no opportunity for Democratic input. The Democrats should not bend over and take this treatment. Instead, Democrats should fight, filibuster, and otherwise refuse to cooperate with Republicans every chance they get.

Democrats have a habit of playing nice against opponents who have no such instincts, thus leading to unnecessary Democratic defeats. One such example is the Affordable Care Act debate in 2009. President Obama unilaterally ceded ground to Republicans in two fundamental ways: first, Obama declared that, instead of European-style Single Payer healthcare provided by the government and paid for with taxes (essentially what we have in the Veterans Administration), his goal was merely to have a “Public Option” where Americans could choose a government health care plan among an array of private plans. While the Public Option would have been a good result that would have kept private plan prices down due to competition, we know that in a negotiation, you don’t start with your final goal, because your proposal is likely to be cut back. That’s exactly what happened, as the Public Option was jettisoned during negotiations, and we ended up with a completely private system under the ACA. This happened in part because of the second Obama unilateral giveaway: he allowed a bipartisan “Group of Six” Senators, three Democrats and three Republicans, to negotiate the ACA bill. Predictably, the Republicans pretended to be on board, and watered down provision after provision of the bill. Then, when it came time to vote on the final product (after many public hearings), no Republicans voted for it. They were undertaking an obvious ruse from the start.

More recently, among the spate of sexual harassment and assault allegations against many prominent men, Democratic Senators turned on their colleague Al Franken, pressuring him to resign, instead of waiting for an Ethics Committee investigation of the questionable accusations against him. Predictably, there have been no such calls by Republicans to force their colleagues who face similar or worse allegations, including Rep. Blake Farenthold and Donald Trump himself, to resign immediately. Nor did Republicans call for U.S. Senator David Vitter to resign when he was caught and admitted hiring prostitutes in 2007. This kind of unilateral disarmament by Democrats is political suicide. They get no political credit for “being nice” or “doing the right thing.” That simply is not how politics is played anymore, courtesy of the Republicans.

Now come the Republicans, after another year of screwing over the Democrats on the latest GOP Tax Scam and many other items, asking Democrats to make nice. Republicans want the Democrats to come aboard on issues like infrastructure, the very issues that formerly were bipartisan, but where Republicans refused to lift a finger to help during Barack Obama’s presidency, instead maintaining their blocking strategy they developed even before Obama took office.

Republicans have set the standard, and it is to grab votes, win elections (in their case illegally), and then just try to muscle their agenda through without cooperating one bit with the opposition. The Democrats must take off the gloves and play the game of politics under the rules as they currently exist. That means fighting for their version of the good of the country (which, by the way, was the more popular version in the 2016 elections as measured by popular presidential vote and gains in the Senate and House), not simply caving into Republican demands to go along. Anything else would be a deadly double standard.

Photo by John Morgan, used under Creative Commons license.

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