According to Jonathan Chait it is. His argument is simple Democrats…
“…appear to believe they have devised a clever plan to advance their own interests. In that case, they are badly deluded.”
One of the fundamental differences between Democrats and Republicans, is Democrats, for the most part, want to do good. It is their kryptonite. Democrats can never be obstructionists like Republicans. They get into government to govern. And their base NEEDS government. The working class, the poor, minorities, gays and women all require the federal government to help fight the discrimination on the state and local level.
Imagine you are a Democratic House member and your city needs what little the government provides, to keep the community going, or you are a senator from a state like Illinois or Michigan where the water was poisoned and no one is doing a damn thing about it on a local level. How difficult would it be to spend the next two years being an obstructionist? How tempting would it be to take what little scraps the President and his party is willing to give?
Back to Chait, who believes obstructionism is the only way forward for Democrats, takes issue with an infrastructure plan pushed by Chuck Schumer:
“We are presenting a choice to the president,” said the senior Senate aide. If he pursues issues that align with Democratic priorities, “he will find Democrats eager to work with him.”
I think Chait believes Trump will take Democrats up on this offer and that Republicans will reject any infrastructure bill due to the price. A war between Republicans in Congress and the White House will ensue and Democrats will be able to take advantage of that in the midterms.
Chait I think rightly points out:
- Republicans run against spending when Democrats are in office and for spending when they are in office.
- Voters will not care that Democrats were able to divide Trump against Republicans. All they will see stuff is getting done and will reward Trump with another term and crush Democrats in the mid terms.
- Dems should add conditions for their help (i.e. if he releases his tax returns he get infrastructure spending) .I think this would be odd and would come off as partisan by the public. I think Kellyanne Conway is right that the American people don’t care about tax returns– but who knows.
I agree with Chait in general, but I think it is a mistake for Democrats to avoid doing what Chuck Schumer is doing. 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.
Let me explain…
Remember, in the beginning Republicans did not obstruct for the sake of obstruction. In Frontline’s Divided States of America, Eric Cantor recalls meeting with the President right after his big win. This was when Obama had the House and Senate.
The key here was that when the President didn’t take their all or nothing approach, then there was obstruction. Was there a plan for obstruction all along? Yes. But the way you get there is important. You want to look reasonable. You want to appear as if you are willing to work with the President.
Democrats must do that same. 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.
And the plans should very liberal. They should seek to push Republicans to the left. I would not take off the table single payer for a fix to the ACA (which is what the public option offers) and I would propose lowering the age for social security. I would even include bills to regulate guns and to fix the voting right act.
Will Republicans and Trump call their bluff, of course not. Maybe they will act as if they are willing to be reasonable or maybe say they will be willing to adopt some of the things in the proposal. But Obama did the same thing. Remember the grand bargain!? Tax cuts in exchange for changes the social safety net? How did that work out for John Boehner? He had a mini revolt on his hand with his own caucus once Cantor and the Republicans got wind he was dealing behind their backs with the President.
When Trump and the Republicans balk at any of it, and they will, then Dems can refuse to help and even obstruct. The mantra from Dems should not be obstruction, but co equal governance with Republicans.
So the problem with Schumer’s presentation is not that he is willing to work with Trump and Republicans, it’s that Dems appear to be willing to work on a project by project basis. That is a mistake.
So I disagree with Chait, working with Republicans or Trump is not delusional.
Democrats should work with them demand either Republicans take all of it, or they get none of it.