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.