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.