ADA’s Fiscal Town Hall: “Operationalizing” basic facts & Bryan Townsend

Filed in Delaware, National by on December 13, 2012

I’ve been wanting to write a longer post on the town hall put together by Ezra Temko through ADA and moderated by Paul Baumbach. I haven’t had time, but wanted to share this little piece.

We were fortunate to have Senator Coons represented on the panel by his Ian Koski, his Director of Communications. Koski impressed me as a very decent, smart guy – ludicrously down to earth by the standards of Senatorial staffers I’ve met in the past. At some point the conversation turned to dealing with an intransigent GOP, and although I was supposed to be the sober business person on the panel, my rabid partisan blogger self is a Mr. Hyde like presence inside me that, I now realize, I don’t have much control over.

So I said something like, “I don’t see how we can move forward until we put aside the sham bi-partisanship and just all acknowledge the simple truth that one party doesn’t have any interest in bargaining in good faith. And on a larger scale, we the public, the media, Congressional Democrats…. everyone has to start calling out the GOP when they are simply lying or getting facts wrong – like tax cuts work. We need to create an environment in which the truth matters.” That’s probably much more cogent than what I actual said.

Koski essentially said, that it was good to be right – but how do you operational-ize that when Republicans won a majority in the house? You have to work with them. (Don’t dump on Koski here because he made a good point that I am relating poorly.)

My response was a little befuddled, because I’m still somehow Pollyanna-ish enough to think that pointing out lies and creating an environment where facts matter is a strategy. The good news is that Bryan Townsend was in the audience, and as a clear thinking Democrat, his comments to me as the event broke up were more on point:

I disagreed with Ian’s comment regarding (not?) operationalizing a strategy to counter the Republicans’ tactics. While I understand a need to focus on governing right now and trying to do the best we can to forge solutions even if via tough compromises, I also do not think that Democrats should be quick to cede territory after the 2012 elections. Meaning, we SHOULD operationalize a strategy.

Now, on the one hand, President Obama did win; on the other hand, it was not such a resounding victory nationwide that we won back the House or that we can claim to have a definitively clear, comprehensive mandate. There are still tough political choices to make. Ultimately, though, we should not compromise simply for the sake of compromise.

I do not envy the President’s position, and I think sitting in the chair brings with it a tougher burden than those of us not in the chair can imagine. Yet as much as the “fiscal cliff” will be painful to hard-working Americans, I think Democrats should more publicly examine the possibility that it might be better for America if we persist in making our long-term case to the American people and we look at 2014 as an opportunity to win even greater support for the enactment of a fairer, more just America–a result that we might not be able to achieve on the basis of bitter compromises in 2012. We won in 2012; let’s not immediately rely on compromise, if a better America is found by pushing all the way to 2014.

Emphasis added. (And I’m quoting here because I emailed Bryan after the event to follow up on our conversation and in his reply he said it would be okay to quote him). What I like about Bryan’s approach is the acknowledgement that some of the operationalizing is the process of setting up to win elections by being on the right side of the issues. It reminded my of Trey Paradee’s campaign that never let Willis off the hook for being a Republican and a member of a party devoted to lies and obfuscations.

I think until Coons and Carney realize that “dealing” with Republicans would be a lot easier if they knew they were going to have to answer to voters for intransigence and lies, they’ll be playing small ball bi-partisanship within the halls of Congress.

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Jason330 is a deep cover double agent working for the GOP. Don't tell anybody.

Comments (10)

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  1. Great blogging, Jason.

    This stuff is complicated, and I admire the fact that at least Coons is struggling with it. As opposed to, say, Carper and Carney:

    “Ladeez and Gentlemen, in this corner, representing Delaware’s congressional lightweight division, pleeeze welcome Tom Carper and John Carney, the Supine Supplicants!”

  2. SussexWatcher says:

    The Americans with Disabilities Act?

  3. puck says:

    Thanks for representing, Jason. I wish I could have been there. It sounds like you did a great job.

    ” at least Coons is struggling with it”

    I don’t see a struggle. I see Coons pro-actively seeking opportunities to be less Democratic, and to pursue bipartisanship for its own sake. If Coons wants to operationalize something, let him scrub the GOP talking points from his website and his personal remarks.

    And it is hopefully only coincidental that Coons’s Republican-lite economic positions are nicely aligned to bolster Coons’s own personal financial situation. After all his first major vote was to extend tax cuts on the rich, for crying out loud.

    Delaware Democrats are trained to be afraid of being too liberal. That’s because for thirty years they have been running against Mike Castle. During the ascendancy of the Reagan Democrats, if you seemed too liberal, Delaware voters would just shrug and vote for Castle. Now there is no Castle-like acceptable alternative, but we are still running against Mike Castle.

    Today’s Republican party is OUT THERE. They have resigned from reality, and there is nothing to lose and everything to gain by calling them out for it instead of pretending it isn’t so. Operationalize THAT – the President could use Senator Coons’s support on that effort.

    how do you operational-ize that when Republicans won a majority in the house?

    I’ll honor your admonition not to dump on Koski, but I’ll just point out Republicans have no such self-doubts about operationalizing their opposition. Instead of worrying about the House, Senator Coons has his work cut out for him in the Senate to keep them from endorsing GOP positions (although Harry Reid has been a rock lately).

    If Coons wants to help make Democrats a majority in the House, he needs to stop validating wack Republican policies with his bipartisanship obesession.

  4. cassandra m says:

    I think Bryan is on the right track and he is making the case that I’ve been making for awhile. Bipartisanship is not the goal — governing is. And when you see a deal where Democrats emerge praising bipartisanship and the GOP emerges talking about sticking to their principles you know you’ve just been screwed. No doubt that this is really hard stuff — high stakes negotiations usually are. But this is what they signed up for, afterall.

  5. Jason330 says:

    @Puck I agree. The definition of “fiscal conservative” needs to be changed to mean someone who wants to make good investments, as it currently means someone who wants to slash programs and lower taxes.

  6. puck says:

    Agreed, Jason. Just watch all these deficit peacocks wetting their pants at the thought of sequester cuts and tax increases to reduce the deficit:

    “No, not THOSE spending cuts! We meant the cuts were only for old and sick people!”

    It is the Democrats’ communication failure for allowing “deficit reduction” to become synonymous with cutting the safety net.

  7. Tom McKenney says:

    I’m a fiscal conservative which means fiscal responsibility. Two unfunded wars are the height of a lack of social and financial responsibility. The current conservative push for cuts is not about fiscal responsibility. It’s about destroying policies they oppose under the guise saving the country. If they truly believed the country was with them, they would make the debate over do we want liberal social policies or not.

  8. kavips says:

    I’m just curious as to what other’s experiences might be.. But often at a round table someone will make an idea that is just totally “out there”. The rest of us look at each other and think, “my that’s odd, wonder where that came from”, and continue on in the direction we were headed. We don’t stop, go back and analyze that opinion, and try to incorporate into our plan, simply just because one of our members happened to say it….

    If it is a good idea, it would already have the political traction to make in happen.., In the case with Republicans, all their ideas have already been tried…. 2003,2004,2005 and we saw the results in 2006,2007,2008…

    Working in partnership with crazies, only does one thing. Makes you crazy too…

  9. Jason330 says:

    I forgot that Coons was up for election again in 2014. I doubt he’ll be primaried, and the suck ass DEGOP is still projected to suck 23 months from now – but we will have more than a few chances to talk to him before he turns into a living fossil.