In a conversation with the Christian Science Monitor, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says Democrats would be willing to negotiate with Republicans over healthcare. It is a remarkable statement that appears to have no true understanding of history, political power and the art of negotiation. Pelosi reportedly said:
“We would be able to swallow, I think, some things (that Republicans want), if that’s the price to pay to get the rest of it,” the California lawmaker said at a newsmaker breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
My personal view is that Democrats cannot help deliver a victory to Donald Trump and the Republicans unless they get everything they want. This is the position the Republicans took. As I previously wrote,
The plan for Democrats going forward should not be obstruction but governance. Democrats should be Bizzaro Republicans. When Republicans want to do massive obstruction to oppose the President, Democrats should propose massive governance….
Each day the President signs a new law, Democrats must be ready to present their counter idea. He signs a boarder wall law, Dems present an infrastructure bill. The White House signs a law to gut ACA, Dems present a bill that fixes ACA with public option and a plan to address the high price of drugs. Trump begins to gut Medicaid and Social Security, Dems plan to strengthen medicare and social security.
As Jonathan Chait noted, it would be a remarkable act of political naiveté on the part of leadership to think helping Republicans pass legislation would help them in the long run. But this is an issue Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer appears to have been having a problem with for some time. Buzzfeed reported, back in February, that Nancy Pelosi believes Democrats have a “responsibility to find common ground with Donald Trump”:
During a CNN town hall broadcast live from Washington on Tuesday night, Pelosi suggested Democrats might be able to cooperate with Trump on two initiatives in particular: infrastructure investment and legislation aimed at child care costs.
“If we can build infrastructure — our roads, our bridges, our broadband, our water systems, etc., high speed rail, mass transit — let’s find a way to do that together. We can find ways to work family-and-work balance, as he said in the campaign was a priority, let’s do that,” Pelosi said.
Chuck Schumer also stated:
“We’re not going to oppose things just because Trump’s name is on it,” Schumer told the TODAY show in an interview on the morning of the inauguration.
The Democratic base wants none of this. As Chait pointed out:
If Schumer wants to prevent bad outcomes, he might cut some deals with Trump. But those deals are going to put his members at risk. If he wants to protect his red-state seats, he needs to drive down Trump’s approval ratings, which means fighting Trump on everything. It’s unfortunate for the Democratic Party that its most powerful elected official does not seem to understand the basic political dynamic.
A guy like Trump sees the dissonance between Democratic leadership and its base and he immediately smells weakness. Expect Trump to exploit this weakness. Expect him to call out Schumer and Pelosi for being weak leaders, for being the cause of bad legislation, any economic downturns or attacks. Expect him to claim Republicans are strong and are willing to do great things with out them. And especially expect him to take credit for all the good done by Obama and the Democrats in the years prior to the election.
Dems need unity right now. A coherent and unified message. Right now it doesn’t look like they know that.