Democrats Can Teach GOP Lessons About Deal-Cutting

With thanks to the Democratic Women of Moore County President Darlene Dunham for taking the time to represent the DWMC (and the entire Moore County Democratic Party) so well! 

Her opinion-piece from the Pilot is printed below, with a link to the Pilot’s webpage so you can read the Republican response.

The author, president of the Moore County Democratic Women, lives in Southern Pines.
By Darlene Dunham, Special to The Pilot
The Republicans are in trouble. They control all three branches of government, but eight months into their tenures have produced no substantive legislation. This crop of Republicans have fought publicly and privately with each other and taken contrarian stands on their own party’s agenda.
It appears they are painfully and publicly learning the lesson Democrats have been studying for decades: the art and science of herding cats. The Democratic Party’s “Big Tent” politics has always been about learning how to keep cohesion when disparate subgroups of the party wouldn’t or couldn’t go along with what the majority wanted.
The savviest leaders under the Big Tent knew how to cut deals and use carrots, sticks and self-interest to get what they wanted from their recalcitrant members. Holding the center, passing legislation, getting folks elected depended on it. The Democrats knew what to do when they were in power.
The Republicans, on the other hand, are most effective when they are obstructing and negating – when they are saying no. They were unrelenting with President Obama. If he wanted a policy or supported a plan, they would tear it down or vote against it in near-total unanimity.
Yet not so much now with the unanimity, when they need all hands on deck to govern proactively. No, now the Republicans are falling apart. Members of their own party keep sabotaging them. Time to hit the books, Mr. Ryan and Mr. McConnell. Herding cats doesn’t get any easier the longer you delay.
Inherent in the above statement is the notion that Republicans might possibly learn to govern effectively with enough study and discipline – that they could become a cohesive powerhouse of a party. It’s important, though, to remember how they found themselves in this enviable position, with which they are doing nothing.
When they weren’t winning by straight-out fear-mongering, many of them were being elected by reducing complex ideas and policies into simplistic slogans, which they repeated endlessly: small government, family values, a strong military. There was rarely any discussion of what was meant when these candidates would mouth these phrases or of how these ideas would be implemented, paid for or integrated into existing policy.
And lest the public forget, the most potent arrow in the Republican quiver – the one that would almost certainly guarantee them victories – was hyper-partisan gerrymandering.
If the fear and pablum they were feeding the voters wasn’t enough for them to win, then they’d just draw illegal districts and triumph that way! If you’ve been taking the easy way out long enough, doing the truly hard work becomes almost impossible.
Ultimately a party has to stand for something. It is not enough to simply be the party of no, of negativity, of negation. Governing is about, among other things, promoting the general welfare. If you believe in this imperative, as Democrats do, then you have policy ideas you want to promote to help the American people.
If you arrive in Washington, having been elected in a gerrymandered district, spouting slogans, but having given no substantive thought to what you’ll do once you arrive, you’ll find it pretty rough going getting anything accomplished.
Even now, when the reins are in their hands, Republicans are spending their goodwill, the public’s patience and an inordinate amount of time working to undo Obama-era legislation, rather than pushing forward their own plans for the country. So could it be, despite the fact that Republicans are so darn good at getting people to vote for them, such masters of killing bills and policy ideas they don’t like, that they are just bloody awful at the art of governance?
It would appear that way if the Democrats are now the ones cutting deals with the president. The Republicans’ putative leader is an unapologetic opportunist. If what he wants to accomplish requires Democratic votes, then he’ll turn to them. And the Dems will always find ways to work with Trump when his issues align with theirs.
When the Democrats actually had a plan for dealing with the debt ceiling that didn’t involve the insolvency of the United States, the president paid attention. And when Congressional Democrats – irrespective of their conservative or liberal bent – were committed to doing the right thing by the Dreamers, and had presented concrete, formulated suggestions and ideas about how to help these young people, the president listened to their suggestions and appreciated the advice.
Every president wants a successful tenure. President Trump is no exception. If the party you belong to is incapable of forward momentum, you turn to the party that is.
Maybe tomorrow Trump won’t negotiate, but today he might. The Democrats know perfectly well he is unpredictable, but they also know when to seize an opportunity to advance their agenda. It’s a lesson the Republicans might want to learn.

Read the Republican response by clicking on the Pilot logo:

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