Thursday, January 10, 2013

Obama isn't the only one with a negotiating problem

Norman Solomon in The Progressive Caucus: Enabling Obama's Rightward Moves Common Dreams 01/09/2013 raises an important point that is generally underappreciated. In particular, he recalls the Progressive Caucus' capitulation on the public option in the debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA):

A two-step prototype hit the ground running in September 2009 when Progressive Caucus co-chairs sent a public letter to Obama on behalf of the caucus – pledging to vote against any healthcare bill "without a robust public option." Six months later, on the House floor, every member of the Progressive Caucus wilted under pressure and voted for a healthcare bill with no public option at all.

Since then, similar dynamics have persisted, with many Progressive Caucus members making fine statements of vigorous resolve – only to succumb on the House floor under intense pressure from the Obama administration.

We need Progressive Caucus members who are progressives first and loyal Democrats second, not the other way around. When the party hierarchy cracks the whip, they should strive to halt the rightward drift of congressional legislation, not add to it.
That was an important testing moment: would Obama have to worry more about not pleasing progressives reflecting the Party base or about Blue Dog Democrats reflecting their corporate donors? After that, Obama must have felt his already-strong contempt for what he sees as "the left" confirmed. Obviously, backing down on a high-stakes position like that gave Obama every reason to think that the Progressive Caucus' future threats didn't need to be taken seriously.

This is also a reminder. As bad as Obama's negotiating skills often look when he's dealing with Republicans, he's been willing to stand his ground against those reflecting the views of the Democratic Party base.

Digby expresses her own fears about Obama's seemingly hapless negotiating style in Negotiating do-si-doh Hullabaloo 01/09/2013:

I have to suspect at this point that this is not entirely a function of "bad negotiating." It looks an awful lot like a subtle way to achieve desired policy outcomes which may be opposed by the president's own party. The need to make a deal at all costs has become the negotiating strategy. And it conveniently means that all the demagogueing about the consequences of not making a deal will get more and more shrill as the negotiations go on and the Republicans will always take it to the very edge --- at which point it becomes "necessary" to make a less than optimal deal than what might have been possible without all the hand wringing and rending of garments. And I hate to say it, but after several of these so-called hostage situations, it's looking to me as if the Republican leaders are partners in a little square dance [with Obama and corporate Democrats], not adversaries. [emphasis in original]

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