Political Animal


December 14, 2012 1:07 PM “Getting To Yes” Via Many “No’s”

By Ed Kilgore

It’s becoming something of a progressive article of faith that the increasingly frantic demands by Republicans that the president put specific spending reductions on the table reflect the GOP’s own inability to articulate what they actually want—or at least what they will publicly admit they actually want.

I agree with that assessment, but something else a bit simpler is also going on: given the pressure being constantly placed on congressional Republicans to prove a mere election defeat didn’t reduce their passion for a conservative policy revolution, many, perhaps most, GOPers in Congress need an Obama proposal, or perhaps several Obama proposals, to reject. So they have at least as large a stake in Obama offering a “liberal” fiscal blueprint as do progressives fearing he’ll concede too much. There exists, of course, a sizable bloc of Republican members of Congress who will oppose any Obama proposal—or indeed any fiscal agreement—to the bitter end. This will probably, in fact, amount to a de facto majority of House Republicans if we are talking about a pre-January 1 “fiscal cliff” agreement, given the increasingly popular position that Republicans should “allow” Obama to “win” the tax debate (with a minimum of Republican votes) and thereby “own” higher taxes, keeping their own powder dry for an apocalyptic battle over spending in connection with the debt limit increase just on the horizon.

At that point, most Republicans will still feel the need to denounce one or more Obama proposals, with some determined to oppose them all on grounds that spending should be cut to make a debt limit increase unnecessary, or hitting the limit would have no economic consequences, or whatever. It’s the size of the various blocs of nay-sayers that will ultimately matter.

You can read a game-theory explanation of how this all works by John Patty. But it all revolves around the desperate need Republicans have to eternally cover their right flanks.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • T2 on December 14, 2012 1:19 PM:

    the name of the game is NO Obama Wins. at anything. Republicans are afraid of being primaried and voted out by their own fellow GOPers. They don't seem to understand that they still have to win general elections. The crazier they get, the harder that becomes, causing them to be even crazier. tough times.

  • BillFromPA on December 14, 2012 1:19 PM:

    The hell with 'covering' anything for the repugs. That whole disfunctional party has been screaming for smaller government and program cuts for decades, it's time to force them to declare what they want gone. Not only has Obama put forth his plan, there's a Plan B that will kick in automatically, the GOP has two plans to reject, all they have to do is lay down their cards. We're done guessing what you want, fools, tell us in plain English and let's see how that goes over with the public.

  • Snarki, child of Loki on December 14, 2012 1:30 PM:

    Obama (well, Geithner) already proposed a plan,that the Repugs rejected as "laughable".

    They don't get another bite at that apple until they put up something with at least as much detail, which they have not done so far (and arguably, WON'T)

  • c u n d gulag on December 14, 2012 1:30 PM:

    Well, when you invite rabid dogs to lay down with you, you can't complain if you die the death of a 1,000 rabid flea bites.

    Without gerrymandering, the Republican Party would be on it's way to being a minor rump party, full of assholes.

  • T2 on December 14, 2012 1:46 PM:

    @Snarki....correct, president Obama delivered a relatively detailed plan to the Republicans....hand delivered by the Secretary of the Treasury...which they laughed at and then bragged to the Media about it.
    Yet day after day, the Media allow Boner and McConnell on TV to say the president has not given them a proposal...but the Media knows that's not true. Why don't they say so?
    The Senate, of which McConnell is a member, passed a bill, approved by Obama, and sent it to the House, which ignored it. And the GOP says Obama hasn't given them a plan. Until the Media starts telling the truth, we'll have the same kind of crap we've seen for four years. I'm not holding my breath.