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I have watched with amazement as the Republican caucus in both the House and the Senate doggedly stick to positions that lost in the last election and continue to lose in national polling.   Like a rigid monolith, they refuse any and all compromise.  Compromise with the President seems to have a special toxicity for these politicians.

What are they thinking?

Well, like almost all politicians, they are thinking about their next election.  If they compromise with the reviled Democrats, the next election they face will be a primary challenge from the right.  Thanks to Citizen's United, that will be a primary challenge they will lose.

Follow me below the squiggle...

Front page diaries today have the answer to the reasons for the implacable Republican intransigence we see unfolding.  On the one hand, we've got a diary showing that the House Republicans are out-of-step with even voters who self-identify as Republicans.  Why won't they listen to their constituents?

Well, the answer is in another front page diary, on the success of right-wing billionaires in snaring control of local and state elections.  In local and state elections, and most especially in primary elections, money can make all the difference in gaining name-recognition and victory at the polls.  Out-of-nowhere Tea Party candidates, funded by billionaires, have destroyed Republican luminaries.  Richard Lugar is probably the most obvious example, but surely not the only one.

It's also not just the billionaires the Gooper congresscritters have to watch out for.  Take, for example my own district, OK1, where the incumbent Republican voted the "wrong way" in an internecine food fight between ophthalmologists and optometrists.  This resulted in anunder-radar-proxy warthat gave the Tea Party candidate just enough boost to unseat an admittedly hapless opponent.  

If you live outside of these rabidly-red districts, you really don't have a concept of the extent to which PBO and democrats are reviled.  Even the slightest taint of "collaboration" makes a primary challenge inevitable.  The example from OK1 shows the power of even a modest amount of funding:  the losing side in that proxy war gave far more money to the incumbent, but he still lost.  Small amounts of money, targeting the ultra-right-wing segment of the GOP that votes in primaries, can have enormous impact.

Now combine the impact of funding primary challenges with gerrymandering. In senate races, this doesn't help--see the Indiana senate race.  However, in most GOP house districts, that's just not going to happen.  As recently as the 2006 election, OK1 was reasonably competitive.  No more.  It's not just "guns, gays, and God" that determines the outcome.  Those are still necessary pre-requisites for Republicans, of course.  But candidates here now must out-anti-Obama each other.  Even Democratic candidates distance themselves from the national party.

I admit this is Oklahoma, but, to repeat, this district was reasonably competitive prior to the aggressive gerrymandering following the 2010 census in Oklahoma.  

The disproportionate power of money to swing primary challenges means that most Gooper congresscritters know that if they compromise now, their next election will be a primary challenge which they will lose.  In most of these aggressively gerrymandered house districts, that won't turn the seat Democratic.  It'll just put an even more intransigent Teahadist in office.

So my point is, don't expect Republicans to compromise.  They could care less what happened in the last national election, or what might happen in the next national election.  All they care about is winning their own next election.  Compromising now guarantees they will lose that one.

As a community, we have to understand the motives behind the actions of the opposition.  The reality is that this group will not, under any circumstances, compromise.  Even the Boehner "Plan B" proposal has resulted in promises of primary challenges from the Club for Growth, among others.  

I don't have a strategy for dealing with this.  I know we can't just give up. But any successful strategy has to be built on the electoral reality our opponents face. Expecting bipartisan compromise is just not going to happen.  It's not reality-based.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    indubitably, wdrath, blueoasis

    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -- Arthur C. Clarke

    by mathGuyNTulsa on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:04:34 AM PST

  •  It's the Christine O'Donnell Effect (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mathGuyNTulsa, blueoasis

    Compromise with the President and you lose the Primary to another Christine O'Donnell or whatever other crazy Teabagger your local Tea Party decides to run.

  •  Republicans always do this... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mathGuyNTulsa, blueoasis, indubitably

    ...they seem to have a superiority complex or something, to the point where, even when they lose elections, they still are convinced that their policies and platforms, even after being overwhelmingly rejected by the citizens, are what is best for everyone.

    They are simply incapable of admitting, to themselves or anyone else, that they may be wrong about anything.

    In fact, even on a grassroots level, when looking at most folks who call themselves Republicans...they, too, seem to all have some kind of superiority complex, whereby they are superior in feeling and attitude towards others.

    It must be some kind of Republican superiority gene or something.

  •  The sad thing is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    indubitably, mathGuyNTulsa

    This is supposed to be a feature.   The House of Representatives is supposed to reflect the will of the constituents of a given district, where a Senator is supposed to be thinking of what's needed for the state as a whole.

    But if you get a situation where a safe is truly safe (in Britain, this was called a "Rotten Borough") then the representative doesn't have any accountability and will do whatever they want.

    That's not precisely what we have.  We have a situation where the seat is safe enough for the PARTY that a poodle with a R by its name could get elected.   So the representative can start out by ignoring all constituents not in his party.   That make the Primary the only game in town, and in both parties, Primaries are dominated by the high enthusiasm voters...and a small enough total pool of voters that any change in the constituency can cause radical upsets.

    So...money can move people to polls, but only a certain number of people before it stops moving more.  That  number currently seems to be sufficient to swamp the "high enthusiasm" voters in primaries, and keep everyone faithful in the general, to prevent the odd upset.

    So yeah, instead of being responsible to my constituents, a typical "safe representative" is responsible only to high enthusiasm voters and to people whose money can move measurable numbers of votes beyond those people.    The level of "effective" money in a primary congressional election isn't all that large...probably  under a million dollars.   Chicken feed if you're a billionaire.  Buying a rep is less money to them than a fast food meal is to me.

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