It goes without saying that messaging is important in politics. To that end, it is not uncommon for allied politicians to synchronize their rhetorical watches and get on the same talking points. Even so, it’s one thing to know that. It’s another to catch a rare glimpse of it actually happening.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Democratic Senate leadership, got on a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning without realizing the reporters were already listening in. Schumer thought he was on a private line with four Democratic senators who were to talk with reporters about the current budget stalemate.
Schumer instructed the group(…)
“The main thrust is basically that we want to negotiate and we want to come up with a compromise but the Tea Party is pulling Boehner too far over to the right and so far over that there is no more fruitful negotiations,” Schumer said on the call. “The only way we can avoid a shutdown is for Boehner to come up with a reasonable compromise and not just listen to what the Tea Party wants.”
Return fire was lobbed by a spokesmen for House Speaker John Boehner and from Tea Party Patriots national coordinator Mark Meckler. The gist was that the Democrats are really to blame for a possible government shutdown.
This blame game needs to stop. It is the epitome of politics-as-usual, tiresome and uninspiring.
Rather than trade accusations over which side ought to flinch, conservatives ought to dispense with the entire notion of compromise and argue from a position of conviction. The current debate amounts to haggling over peanuts. Current proposals differ by tens of billions of dollars when hundreds of billions must be cut to right our fiscal ship.
This is not a pissing contest or game of chicken. As Meckler points out, the American people expect tough decisions to be made posthaste.
By letting Democrats lead with this compromise nonsense, Republicans are ceding the terms of debate and precluding a mediocre outcome at best. Instead, they ought to call an unexpected play. They ought to rally around the idea of cuts at any political cost.
Right now, the conventional wisdom is that the American people don’t want to see a government shutdown and will retaliate against whoever they perceive as responsible for it. That bluff needs to be called. Republicans need to speak with one voice reminiscent of Governors Scott Walker and Chris Christie. This is what you sent us here to do, and we’re going to fulfill that mandate. If you don’t like it, vote us out.
Otherwise, the meme of compromise predetermines failure. No one runs on compromise. No one raises money, rallies volunteers, or gets elected on the platform of “meeting the opposition halfway.” No one perceives that as leadership.
Rather than compromise, Republicans need to draw a line in the sand and take their case to the people. It’s an easy message, but it won’t sell itself.