It is an obvious game of chicken and well-played by the Republicans. The object of the game is to establish your position in a metaphoric staring contest, wait to see who blinks first, then take all you can and run!
Think about it. Every single policy that involves negotiations, Republicans take the most extreme right winged position available. They then go on the so-called “main-stream media” and repeat their extreme arguments over and over and over again, in essence brainwashing otherwise rational Americans into thinking these far-fetched positions are normal.
After a constant barrage of talking points from every congressional Republican who gets in front of a microphone or camera, these extreme positions take on a life of their own, as everyday folks begin to consider the possibilities of enacting these policies. People take up positions, usually along party lines, and the pros and cons are measured.
Democrats too, hear these arguments, for they are repeated by every single congressional Republican verbatim. So when the time comes to negotiate, Democrats, who tend to start in the middle, move more and more to the right, a move seen by Republicans as progress in the negotiations, and the end result is a piece of legislation that is somewhere between center and far right.
Look at the most recent negotiations between Democrats and Republicans – the 2011 budget. Weeks before the deadline arrived, Republicans gathered all their talking points, memorized them and spewed them out on every cable and radio network. The most extreme positions were demanding a $100 billion budget cut, defunding Education, defunding Planned Parenthood and stopping abortions, with no regards to women’s health or how she conceived – whether it be through rape or incest – and with no regards to the health or survivability of the fetus. They also got bombarded with news from across the nation that Republican governors were enacting some of the most extreme policies this country has seen in decades regarding union collective bargaining capabilities. All this was done in unison, as the full effort to modify America’s thinking had begun.
As the deadline to agree on a budget approached, Republicans dug in even further. They were relentless in getting their message out, everyone reciting the same scripts, some even protesting outside of Harry Reid’s office demanding that Planned Parenthood be abolished. Democrats were not immune to the Republican’s efforts, and instead of taking up what many considered to be traditional liberal positions on the issues, found themselves being more centrist in order to avoid looking as left-winged extremists.
Starting from this centrist position was an automatic win for the Republicans, but they continued digging in until the eleventh hour – literally! Democrats gave a little more, and the total outcome was an agreement to continue funding the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, but considerable cuts to programs geared towards saving lives, like the EPA and local police enforcement, as well as some cuts to Education among others. Cuts totaling $38.5 billion.
Republicans are masters of the art of negotiation. Take the most extreme positions, and stay there until the other side flinches.
The same strategy will be seen in the next big fight – raising the debt ceiling. And the Paul Ryan Plan, which will ultimately transfer $4.2 trillion from the middle class to the wealthy, is the extreme right winged position they will be using to get more centrist-right cuts. And their position now is, if Ryan’s plan doesn’t go into effect, then the debt ceiling will not be raised. Turn on your cable news station, and you are almost guaranteed to see Republicans preaching that “we don’t have a tax problem, we have a spending problem,” and “Ryan’s proposed budget is the only responsible plan to tackle America’s long-term debt,” or that they only “intend to vote for Ryan’s budget cuts.”
They are a well oiled machine. But this game is not solitaire, so it requires an opponent. Democrats must stand up for the middle class, like they’ve done for decades.
Democrats know the game being played by the Republicans, and they must play accordingly. In the words of GI-Joe, a favorite American hero: “… knowing is half the battle!”