Wednesday, January 2, 2013

You'll Never Get 435 Good Votes

During the "fiscal cliff" debate, I was annoyed by the lack of flexibility on the left. Social Security? Don't touch it. Raising the top tax bracket to $400,000? That's breaking a promise! Divided government means negotiation and compromise, and negotiation and compromise mean giving something up to get something. It's a trade, and we all hate to trade, but you have to. You also have to realize you're not going to get something good in exchange for your garbage. That's reality.

Let's relate that down to where we're at with the current House of Representatives. Jon Geeting disagrees with my giving credit to Congressman Dent for his vote last night on taxes, and his advocacy for Hurricane Sandy relief. His argument is that we shouldn't give these guys credit for doing what they should do anyway, or fixing problems they made. That's both fair and not. The 85 yes votes within the GOP broke from the majority of their majority to pass this bill, a rarity in a Congress where virtually everyone is an 85% plus loyalist. That's also dangerous, politically. Let's be clear, these guys are in gerrymandered whack-job districts now, where breaking from dogma can mean unemployment. Their initial votes to demand cuts in 2011 were politically necessary coming off of a large electoral victory that was about that. Those forces are still out there now, and sadly, they run the GOP of today. Today's GOP establishment is yester-year's nutjobs, and these Congressmen breaking from them provide a glimmer, a small one that I'm sure will close next week, of hope that there can be agreements made in President Obama's second term. We now know who we're reasonably going to have any chance of ever speaking to, and who not. The idea that we'll replace all the "moderate" Republicans is also not really going anywhere. When the Dents, and Leonard Lances of the world, are moved into more conservative leaning districts, if we beat them it will have to be with a moderate Democrat, which many in our party have grown to hate.

More importantly, this is political reality. We will never get 435 solid progressive votes. Never. You would like to have 218, and that would be great, but we don't have that now, not even close, and we probably won't this decade. Thanks to re-districting, if we want the House back, the activists on the left are going to have to kiss and make up with the concept of "Blue Dogs," especially in districts that we don't currently have. Six Republicans are in left-leaning districts, and we need 17 seats, so we're going to have to cut our losses and accept some people who break with us 20%, maybe even 30% of the time to win. In the meanwhile, the only way to pass any meaningful legislation going forward during President Obama's time in Washington is going to require a coalition of some portion of our 201 House members and these 85 Republicans. Otherwise we fail. This is the Congress we have, so yes, I do think we have to stop thinking of these guys as the devil. 

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