Political Animal


July 04, 2011 8:40 AM McCain: Americans ‘don’t want compromise’

By Steve Benen

It’s safe to say Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) doesn’t have his finger on the pulse of public opinion.

The American people do not want Republicans to compromise on their opposition to any form of tax increase as part of a deficit reduction deal being negotiated with Democrats, veteran Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said Sunday.

“The principle of not raising taxes is something that we campaigned on last November and the results of the election was the American people don’t want their taxes raised and they wanted us to cut spending,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “They don’t want compromise.”

In every meaningful way, McCain’s assumptions are exactly backwards.

What the conservative senator seems to be arguing here is the notion of a mandate: Republicans campaigned against taxes, Republicans won, ergo Republicans can’t allow a compromise that imposes any tax increases on anyone ever. It’s an “elections have consequences” kind of approach.

And that’s not a bad pitch, if McCain were in any way correct about the details, but he’s not. For one thing, Americans elected a Democratic Senate. (McCain may have forgotten, but his caucus is still in the minority.) If voters left us with a Republican House and a Democratic Senate, how exactly does McCain perceive this as an anti-compromise electorate?

For another, the evidence is overwhelming that the American mainstream absolutely supports additional revenue as part of a larger debt-reduction deal.

I’m also fascinated by the notion that McCain suddenly believes mandates matter. Barack Obama sought the presidency promising to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year. If memory serves, he did pretty well when voters had their say. By McCain’s reasoning, doesn’t that mean the president should have his way, too?

But it’s the “they don’t want compromise” line that really stands out. From McCain’s bizarre perspective, Americans simply want Democrats to accept the Republicans’ unpopular agenda — all of it — and see no need for compromise between the parties.

It’s a reminder about the extent to which the parties are approaching this process very differently. Democrats believe it’s a negotiation, and both sides will make concessions to reach an equitable agreement. Republicans believe it’s a transaction, and Democrats must simply give the GOP what it demands.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Danp on July 04, 2011 8:50 AM:

    Funny, if there is a connection between what they ran on and what their mandate is, Jobs might be pretty high on the list. Not just more jobs, but better jobs. Less outsourcing, fewer "illegals", fewer bank schemes, help for small businesses (not hedge funds either), and fewer give-aways to the elites. And the teabaggers were right there to lick it up.

  • c u n d gulag on July 04, 2011 8:52 AM:

    Silly wabbit's, Democrats don't get mandates!

    Only Republicans get mandates.
    Especially the closeted gay ones.

    And it was soooooo nice to see Ol' Mac on the Sunday shows again.
    What's it been since he was last on?

  • walt on July 04, 2011 8:52 AM:

    The other side of the GOP position is the implication that Democrats have no right to govern. Therefore, anything Democrats might propose is, ipso facto, illegitimate.

    Politics is war. Republicans want it that way and Democrats pretend it's not happening. Guess who's going to win?

  • Kathryn on July 04, 2011 8:59 AM:

    The only time Congress had high approval was during the Lame Duck session in 2009, right before the House of Representatives was turned over to Boehner and company.
    Much was accomplished by compromise.
    What our dozing electorate didn't notice nor did the press was that the Lame Duck Congress was in Democratic control then. I don't happen to believe that John McCain was ever the moral compromiser and truth teller he was promoted to be by the press and others in earlier days, he's a coldhearted opportunist and always has been, a smirking phoney. I bet Cindy voted against him.

    capcha "Formula ortudy" with Formula clear winner.

  • SteveT on July 04, 2011 9:02 AM:

    "The principle of not raising taxes is something that we campaigned on last November and the results of the election was the American people don't want their taxes raised and they wanted us to cut spending," - John McCain

    As usual, McCain has it wrong.

    The principles that Republicans ran on, that "journalists" uncritically reported, and upon which voters made their choices were:

    - Obama "nationalized" the country's health care system. He didn't.

    - Obama raised everyone's taxes. He cut them.

    - Obama bailed out the big banks. Partially true - he continued Bush's policy giveaways to the banks while getting nothing in return.

    - Obama is a communist, terrorist-loving, secret Muslim who was born in Kenya. No comment necessary.

  • Reality Bites on July 04, 2011 9:05 AM:

    If memory serves, the voters had thei say last November in the mid- terms as well. If memory serves, Obama originally wouldn't consider buget cuts as part of the debt ceiling proposal...

  • Danp on July 04, 2011 9:12 AM:

    The only time Congress had high approval was during the Lame Duck session in 2009

    Yes, that would be when the Republicans had their come-to-Jesus moment and admitted that they had not governed like real conservatives, but just wanted another chance. Surprise!

  • Danp on July 04, 2011 9:15 AM:

    Obama originally wouldn't consider buget cuts as part of the debt ceiling proposal...

    Reality bites, but you are somewhere else entirely. See if you can find a quote where Obama said that.

  • Observer on July 04, 2011 9:30 AM:

    The problem is that those of the public who do want compromise but are only paying half attention to the shenanigans in Washington will hear it through the ether that "the American people don't want compromise" and decide they'd better get with the program. And so, this sort of nonsense from McCain and all the other Republicans wins for them. Democrats are just utterly incompetent at the public discourse and messaging thing. Just pathetic. Democrats ought to have an immediate response to every bit of stupid theater the Republicans put on every second of the day.

  • EriktheRed on July 04, 2011 10:17 AM:

    "For one thing, Americans elected a Democratic Senate."

    I'm no GOoPer, but I think I can anticipate the argument you'd get from one re. that point and, unfortunately, it's likely true.

    The Dems may have come out with their Senate majority intact, but if more Dems had been up for re-election last November, that likely would not have been the case.

    Ironically, though, it looks like their chances of holding their majority are greater now, when so many seats are going to be up for grabs. The Repubs have no one to blame but themselves for that.

  • benjoya on July 04, 2011 10:55 AM:

    see, if the republicans have even a slight majority of one house of congress, it means every single american wants them to enact their agenda with zero compromise. is that so hard to imagine? if it is, hit yourself in the head with a hammer a few dozen times; then you'll see things through john mcCain's eyes.

  • JW on July 04, 2011 11:27 AM:

    I am definitely in the camp that considers President Obama to be a sheep-in-sheep's-clothing where dealing with the GOP is concerned. But I will acknowledge that he can be an incredibly formidable political counter-puncher when the mood strikes him. One need look back no further than his brilliant speech on race in America, delivered in Philadelphia during the 2008 campaign. It served to gut the truly vicious attacks that republicans had began to mount on Obama the Candidate, and may well have sealed the election later that Fall.

    The attacks currently endured by Obama the democratic President are far more vicious, as the stakes transcend electioneering, being a matter of vast import to the entire citizenry. Here's hoping, therefore, that the President kicks into his 2012 campaign mode soon (as in this afternoon), and begins laying some rhetorically heavy wood up alongside the thick, bullying skulls of congressional republicans. He's the last, best, and, most importantly, only hope this country has got going for it.

  • xando foote on July 04, 2011 11:35 AM:

    I still fail to see how eliminating tax loopholes and subsidies for big oil, et al, constitutes "raising taxes." Nor is allowing disasterous Bush-era tax cuts for the rich to sunset doing anythin at all, much less raising their taxes. The GOP seems to feel that if they repeat the Norquistial view often enough, voters will eventually agree.

    As far as the 2010 midterms, a lot of Dems and independents just stayed home, discouraged with the economy and war. The GOP made headway with TP enthusiasm and a tsunami of Rove-Koch attack ads. This will not occur again in 2012.

  • MuddyPolitics.com on July 04, 2011 11:38 AM:

    Americans don't want compromise?

    The polls say otherwise, by a 25-point margin. When Congress was approaching a possible government shutdown over budget differences, 58 percent of Americans said they preferred that Congress compromise rather than hold out for their every desire (33 percent).

    The consequences of not doing so would have shut down parks and museums, perhaps slowed a few Social Security checks. The consequences of not increasing the debt ceiling are quite a bit more severe, but I can't imagine the sentiments would be so different. Polls consistently show that Americans do want spending cuts, they just don't want to decrease funding for social programs, which makes spending cuts impossible. They support it in theory, but not in reality.

    Once again, McCain is misinformed. It seems to run in the GOP family.



  • rbe1 on July 04, 2011 12:03 PM:

    John McCain is speaking through drool these days. I'm amazed they still trot him out for the occasional utterance.

  • momrois on July 04, 2011 12:19 PM:

    Maybe we can interpret the polls and McCain's "no compromise" differently. Maybe, since 70-75 percent of the public wants taxes raised, that means the DEMS shouldn't compromise. Let's stop whining and start playing hardball.

  • Texas Aggie on July 04, 2011 2:39 PM:

    Well, McCain may be sort of right. Many Americans don't want to have a compromise. They want taxes on the rich to be raised to what they were under Reagan. They want corporations that off shore jobs to be punished. They want Medicare, Medicaid, SS, student loans, and all the rest of it untouched or better yet, expanded. They want the tax loopholes and subsidies that corporations and hedge fund managers among others get to be eliminated. They want the banks to be taken down to the point that they are small enough to fail. They want the troops brought home before more of them are killed or wounded. They don't want any of these things to be negotiated away in a "compromise."

    I am willing to bet that all of the points I've listed above have a majority of Americans in favor.

  • Schtick on July 04, 2011 4:57 PM:

    "Itís safe to say Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) doesnít have his finger on the pulse of public opinion."

    And we are safe he doesn't have his finger "the button".

    crapcha....wicked statud....exactly!

  • jjm on July 05, 2011 5:31 AM:

    McCain is right that we don't want compromise -- but only from Democrats.

    Republicans are trying to exploit the crazy 2010 midterms as if they were a mandate taking over the entire government. I recall the headlines, even in the NYT that the Republicans won "Congress" not just the House.

  • Al Swearengen on July 05, 2011 1:51 PM:

    Sorry John, America doesn't negotiate with terrorists. Which is all the GOP is these days. "Give us what we want, or we'll blow the world's economy up."