Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The art of politics vs. the tea-party movement

Much of the electorate complains about political candidates who seemingly won't take a stand, telling people what they think they want to hear and talking about of both sides of their mouth.

The recent shenanigans by Republican politicians, most recently and notably Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, should provide a clue as to why that's the case.

You may recall that he singlehandedly caused a crisis in that state by trying to push a bill that, in essence, would render public-sector unions toothless by allowing them collective bargaining only on economic issues. Democratic members of the state's Senate left the state to avoid a vote (which they knew they'd lose). Walker has demanded that the eloping senators return; they said they would do so when, and only when, he was prepared to negotiate.

That's the key word here -- "negotiate."

What Walker and his supporters don't seem to realize is that politics, at least in a republican democracy such as ours, is the "art of the possible," the willingness to make deals -- to give a little here and take a little there -- to get things done. The conservative movement in general and the "tea-party" movement, of which Walker is a supporter, in particular by contrast brook no dissent and always attempt to dictate the outcome.

It may be learning now that, when you take a strong, uncompromising stand, you give people incentive to vote against you. Already there's talk about recalling numerous Republican state senators in Wisconsin as a result of this fiasco, and polls have shown that the majority of voters now oppose Walker's bill.

Let me give two examples from the fairly recent past. Back in 1995 President Clinton and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich did battle over the Federal budget; the trouble was that the new Gingrich Congress -- including 75 freshman Republicans elected on the Contract with America -- was in no mood to negotiate. Recognizing this, Clinton allowed the government to shut down twice and the public blamed Gingrich, who in the end nevertheless got what he wanted. Clinton, of course, waltzed to a second term.

Remember that President Obama signed that health-care insurance bill into law about a year ago. Thing is, the opponents, out of spite rather than negotiating in good faith, kept trying to throw up roadblocks to and later complained that he actually made some deals to get the bill passed. Well, duh -- that's how the game works. And now they have the audacity to think that they can get it repealed (despite figures that say that it would cost the country down the road).

The modern conservative movement, which in a 2009 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times Neal Gabler, who is writing a biography of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, referred to as "religion," has to understand that not only do a lot of people not agree with it but that it is now giving active opposition. The trouble is that, as a purist ideology, conservatism looks down upon anything that doesn't follow its tenets to the letter.

Right now, with huge, daily demonstrations in Madison, conservatives in private have likely referred to the protesters as "barbarians storming the gates." They need to understand that the progressives who have decided to fight back aren't going away and they should talk and listen to them if they want to stay in office.

1 comment:

Cody said...

I dig your blog... and your comments on Sojo. Keep it up.