Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 7, 2011

TWO PARTIES, TWO APPROACHES TO COMPROMISE.... The asymmetry is fascinating, but more importantly, it influences the outcome of the larger debate.

As negotiators in Congress squabble over the size and scope of spending cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year, Democrats and Republicans outside the Beltway differ dramatically in how they want their leaders to handle the budget stalemate, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

In a contrast that illustrates why the standoff has pushed the federal government to the verge of a shutdown, the poll finds an overwhelming majority of Democrats wanting the leaders of their party in Congress to compromise, and a majority of Republicans wanting theirs to stand firm.

The results weren't especially close. The vast majority (68%) of self-identified Democrats expect their party's leaders to make compromises to gain consensus as part of the budget fight. A clear majority (56%) of self-identified Republicans want their party's leaders to stick to their guns and avoid compromise, not matter the consequences.

Two-thirds of independents (66%), not surprisingly, are more in line with rank-and-file Dems, expecting both parties to compromise.

GOP pollster Bill McInturff, who helped conduct the poll for NBC, said, "There is no question that has to drive the leadership in terms of being responsive."

Agreed. In fact, this is the second national poll this week to show this kind of breakdown. A Pew Research Center survey found most Democratic and independent voters want policymakers they agree with to cooperate and make concessions, while most Republican voters want their like-minded officials to stand on principle.

This may speak to different personality styles between partisans -- Dems are comfortable with compromise, Republicans aren't -- but that's only part of the significance here.

The more important point is that GOP officials read these polls and act accordingly. The clear majority of the American mainstream wants Republicans to be responsible and pragmatic, striking deals to get things done. But the congressional GOP doesn't care what the American mainstream wants; it cares what the base wants. And in this case, the base wants a fight, not a deal.

The danger here is that deliberately ignoring the mainstream to kowtow to extremists should carry electoral consequences, but Republican officials are fairly comfortable taking the risk -- they can be irresponsible, blame Dems, wait for the media to blame "both sides" equally, and count on the party, the Koch Brothers, and Karl Rove to run a bunch of attack ads that will help them stay in office in anyway.

Update: And three makes a trend -- new Gallup data shows similar results to NBC and Pew on party voters and their willingness to support compromise.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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How's that strategy work out for Prosser? They're going to find out the hard way that you can push people only so far, no matter how many $$ you have on your side.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on April 7, 2011 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

And now we hear that the cherry blossom parade in Washington must be canceled because the Park Service will not be able to cope because of the government shenanigans.

Posted by: j on April 7, 2011 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

As usual Steve, good analysis. Thanks. It seems that the political question then becomes: what's the "tipping point" at which most Democrats and Independents conclude that Democrats have made a sufficiently good effort to compromise that they (Dems and Indys) conclude that it's the Republicans' fault for being overly ideological.

At that point congressional Republicans are stuck between the rock of their base and the hard place of most voters.

Posted by: massappeal on April 7, 2011 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans v. Democrats:

An immovable object!

Against a totally resistable force...

Maybe I should change that to 'the totally resistable fArce?'


Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 7, 2011 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

Unless you had some big dude with a 'bully pulpit' who could go over the heads of the media....

Oh hell, I'm just dreaming.

Posted by: SW on April 7, 2011 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

If Democrats constantly see their leaders refuse to fight and capitulate instead, then they come to expect them to not fight and to capitulate. Consider it Pavlovian.

Republicans and conservatives are afraid of their base, whereas Democrats consistently punch theirs. They are rewarded for this, as doing so is seen as very serious and is frankly expected. But then, both parties are bad - it's just that one is sometimes evil, and the other is always evil.

Posted by: terraformer on April 7, 2011 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

My guess is that Republicans met behind closed doors (in some antechamber of Hell) and have already decided the end game: either accept the best deal they can get, or play this thing out for as long as possible, then shut the gov't down because the want to.

And they also know they can play Speaker Boehner by stroking his ego and giving him standing ovations - the question is, does Boehner have even a tiny bit of conscience that might pressure him to do what's best for country he claims to represent? And, even if Boehner makes a deal, can't the rest of his party reject it?

Posted by: delNorte on April 7, 2011 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Grown up Americans- sadly, a dwindling minority- have spent their lives compromising.

Unless your daddy was Daddy Warbucks, you didn't always get what you wanted, and that holds true for spouses and jobs and a Nobel Prize.

But we muddled through, and raised mostly happy families and lead mostly happy lives.

Unless we are Tea Party Republicans. Then we hold our breath until we turn blue, in order to get what we want. Apparently, that worked as a child for them.

Posted by: DAY on April 7, 2011 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Compromise always leads to failure for Republicans. Just ask Bush I how compromising with the Democrats on tax increases worked out.

Any compromise will have a blood in the water effect on Pelosi and the Democrats leadership. Democrats can compromise now because the Democrats will take it all back later. When Republicans compromise, the Republicans lose now and in the future.

If the Democrats are not going to agree in a $30 billion dollar cut, then the only alternative is $1.5 trillion dollar tax increases in the future. Why would any Republicans want to agree to that?

Posted by: superdestroyer on April 7, 2011 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

the problem is that Compromise means different things to different Parties. To the Dems, it means finding some place in the middle of the numbers where everyone can claim a "win for the American people". To the Repugs, rejecting anything except actions which directly support their platforms and harm the Dem programs.
So when they say " a compromise is on the table" it will always mean the Dems giving in.

Posted by: T2 on April 7, 2011 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans can also count on congressional districts drawn to minimize the likelihood of competitive elections, thus ensuring that there will be no consequences for their actions.

Posted by: dr. bloor on April 7, 2011 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

From a distance this negotiation has gone as well as any might expect from the Democratic point of view. The problem is that any negotiation requires two honest partners willing to negotiate in good faith. it is pretty clear to everybody that the Republicans are not negotiating in good faith.

The next question is how long will it take for the Republicans to realize they are losing the voting public in this negotiation? Once they realize that they will reach a compromise with the Democrats.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 7, 2011 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

dr. blood, districts that seem pretty red in an off year can turn blue in a presidential year. Remember just a few months ago a lot of Democrats were turned out of office. All the Democrats have to do is win 25 back and Nancy is Speaker again. The Senate is were the Republicans stand to make great gains next year. I expect the house to switch to the Democrats and there is a very good chance Mitch McConnell will be the Senate majority leader.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 7, 2011 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

You have:

"and count on the party, the Koch Brothers, and Karl Rove to run a bunch of attack ads"

this is more to the point:

"and count on the party (the Koch Brothers) to run a bunch of attack ads"

(Karl Rove? C'mon.)

Posted by: edb on April 7, 2011 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

The vast majority (68%) of self-identified Democrats expect their party's leaders to make compromises to gain consensus as part of the budget fight.


I wonder, if just maybe, polled democrats would feel a little different after actually being, oh I don't know...... "informed" of the ridiculous demands, the riders, the constantly changing goalposts, etc the "principled" GOP is trying to shut the government down over.

Maybe they could try that and see support for standing on their principles actually works too.

Posted by: AndThenThere'sThat on April 7, 2011 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

some big dude with a 'bully pulpit'

Similar to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, no doubt...

Posted by: chi res on April 7, 2011 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

"Democrats expect their party's leaders to make compromises"

So - we have met the enemy, and they is us?!?

I'm not buying that Democratic voters actually WANT their representatives to consistently keep caving to the Republican demands. After all, that's what "compromise" amounts to. However, these polls seem to be telling Democratic representatives that that's what their constituents REALLY DO WANT. How depressing.

It's time to wean the Democratic Party off the disgusting, counterproductive habit of kicking "the dirty hippies" - that is, the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Glenn Greenwald over at Salon.com, discussed this but had no suggestions. Zippo. I strongly doubt that his trollish readers had any ideas, either - they-re best at self-defeating Democrat-bashing.

When - not if - the President and Democratic leadership capitulate to all of the GOP's demands, there's got to be some kind of push back by the Democratic base. Not the traditional, go in the corner to sulk, whine on the 'Net comment boards response. Something more like Madison.

Posted by: zandru on April 7, 2011 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

For Democrats, when SS and Medicare are issues it is a once in a decade opportunity to gain credibility on the left and in the middle. Encourage the right to believe in their polls and propose things like the Ryan Plan. The President should state that he will NOT let the Republicans "Gut" SS and Medicare!

Posted by: string on April 7, 2011 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

DAY 8:47

That has a real familiar feel to it .

Tee Baggeurs just another wrinkle on the dwindling heap of excess passed off as need . A funky "fundamental" gas twixt the appendix and the right wing approximation of the cranky Sphinx , last exit before the freedom to stink .

Posted by: FRP on April 7, 2011 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Abhor their principles, as I do, all you want, but, they have learned standing for principles can win the end game. The old "Better Dead than Red" crowd learned to hold fast in defeats. They kept attacking. In '66, in California, those Birchers and Democrats turned RepuGs, decided, on their mis-guided principles to dump the moderate Senator Kuechel. They defeated him, but, lost the seat for 24 years. However, this same group backed a former actor and he became Governor, and, finally, President. They remind me, somewhat, of Hollywood movies, where, for years, the writers would end movies with the good guys defeating the bad guys amidst very tidy bow ribboned packages. The good guys and gals would ride into the sunset victoriously. However, there would be a sequel where the bad guys would morph into ever more dangerous foes. The Right will never sleep and there should never be any compromise with a rattle snake. We keep trying to cut off their rattles and declaring "Victory", whilst the head is still very much alive.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 7, 2011 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Guess the polls show that repubs can squeeze in another tax cut for the rich and big corporations without too much of a pushback. Obama and the dems will "compromise" for whatever the repubs want.

Posted by: Schtick on April 7, 2011 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

So the republicans are bullies and the Democrats are their bitches. Well at least the bitches have limits. And apparently 33 billion is their limit.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on April 7, 2011 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

In general, reciprocity is a virtue, the foundation of a civil society. I do something for you, you do something in return for me.

So when I read that Democrats and Independents support compromise, I think, yeah, they are grown-ups, they are mature enough to expect give and take. And when I read that Republicans want their leaders to NOT compromise, to stick to their guns, no matter what the cost, I think, "The bleeping-bleep-bleep-bleep bullies." I hope others are thinking the same way.

Their inflexibility has dragged public policy to the right and hurt the nation. This is when I get sentimental about the good old days when the threat of Communism forced these bozos to button down the crazy.

Posted by: PTate in MN on April 7, 2011 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

This reminds me of the health care reform "debate". The Republicans got 80% of what they wanted in a potential bill, and instead of celebrating this as a win, they demanded that the whole thing be scrapped after months of work and the process restarted. IIRC, Atrios refers to these folks as WATB.

Posted by: josef on April 7, 2011 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Like Zandru, I have a hard time believing that 7 out of 10 Democrats want leaders to make further concessions in light of those already made to date.

It seems that the polls were asking respondents about their attitude towards compromise in general, not with respect to this particular situation at this point in time.

Someone please direct me to ONE CONCESSION that the republicans have made during this budget process. Just one.

Posted by: bdop4 on April 7, 2011 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Article: "Two-thirds of independents (66%), not surprisingly, are more in line with rank-and-file Dems, expecting both parties to compromise."

Count me among that 66%. The post-shutdown spin will involve more and more establishment Republicans trying to distance themselves from their Tea Party crazies. The Tea Party has already cost the GOP control of the Senate and now they are laying the groundwork for a real GOP drubbing in 2012. I can't say I'm not enjoying watching them all squirm. We don't elect people to go on a "cause" based only on their personal ideology; we elect them to make sound decisions in the best interest of the nation and behave like mature adults. Lindsay Graham was correct when he said the Tea Party is not sustainable. They will soon join Glenn Beck in history's junkyard.

Posted by: max on April 7, 2011 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

I think several here are misreading the polls. What Democratic and Independent voters want and expect from those politicians they support is COMPROMISE, which is NOT the same as capitulation. I didn't look at the poll questions, so I can't say if the responses were about general principles; ie, Democrats should be willing to give as well as take, or on this particular situation.
Too many here seem to equate ANY compromise with Republican/Teabaggers to be a capitulation. While I don't like to "lose" any more than those posters, I do recognize the difference between those two actions.
We have to be careful, or we could easily become what we dislike the most...

Posted by: Doug on April 7, 2011 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

A poll conducted by NYT? Yeah.....that's not biased.

Posted by: anon on April 8, 2011 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK
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