One of the most basic tenets of negotiating is not to give everything away all at once. As a negotiator, if you find yourself having reached a point that you have nothing else to give up but your core principles, you either need to pull back or attempt to gain the upper hand in some other way.
For example, say that you are selling a car. You have decided not to accept less than $2000. Mistakenly, you make the offer of $2000 early in the process, but the buyer won't accept. Most of us in this situation simply say "take it or leave it," and if the potential buyer keeps nagging you, you simply walk away.
But say that you can't possibly disengage. Say that you are the only potential seller of the car and the buyer is the only possible buyer of the car. In that case, after reaching $2000, if the buyer won't accept, you can actually up the ante. As in, "$2000 is too high for you? Now the price goes up $100 for every minute of my time you're wasting. The price is now $2100." Used judiciously, this tactic can work.
The government shutdown and imminent failure to raise the debt limit is like the latter situation. For all of Obama's presidency, Republicans have asked for more and more, they have never been satisfied. Each time the two sides negotiate, the policy moves to the right. The republicans ask for 100%, get 90%, then come back and demand the last 10%. Then they threaten to shut town the government unless they get another 20%. The honorable way to deal with this is not to negotiate, but that depends on every single democrat holding firm, and a best case scenario only gets us to where we thought we were before.
In other words, the current paradigm will cost the democrats no matter what. If we "win" we still lose since the Republicans hurt the country by shutting down the government. It's time to up the ante.
Below the fold, I've suggested some possibilities for upping the ante.
I've been thinking about the fact that many government employees are working without getting paid. Looking at it one way, this is slavery.
First monkeywrench: Some government employees should bring a suit against the government for violation of the 13th amendment that prohibits slavery.
Looking at it another way, the government workers who are not getting paid are simply volunteers. Indeed there is no promise that they will ever get paid so, if they're not slaves, they must simply be working for the government out of the goodness of their hearts. Now, it is true that federal workers may not strike, but striking implies that you are working for someone. If federal workers are simply volunteers, their failure to show up for work is not a strike.
Second Monkeywrench: Government employees who are not getting paid should get together and agree not to show up for work. They can't be essential employees if they're not being paid.
The republicans in the house are arguing that shutting down the government isn't really a big deal. If that is true, how big a deal would it really be to eliminate the filibuster in the Senate for presidential appointments? Republicans claim that what they're doing is not affecting the democratic process. If that's true, I'd like to see them explain to their constituents why eliminating a Senate rule that allows for minority control is the end of democracy. I'd also like the republicans to explain why it's ok for the federal government to go into default (something which has never happened in the history of the US) but not ok for the filibuster to be eliminated (something that has never happened in the history of the US). If the Democrats in the Senate want to get something done, they can eliminate the filibuster and approve all of president Obama's agency and judicial appointments. Getting judges in would switch the power dynamic back to the democrats and the president.
Third Monkeywrench: Eliminate the filibuster for presidential appointments. Democrats will get back in the driver's seat really quickly.
All sane people agree that a default on the nation's debt would be catastrophic. There has also been discussion that if Obama defies the debt limit and continues to pay our bills, that would reach the level of an impeachable offense. That is, republicans are willing to destroy the economy for the possibility that they could destroy Obama in the process.
Obama needs to point out that a failure to raise the debt limit would actually increase his power. That is because, barring laws on how to pay bills in such a situation, it is up to the executive branch to determine who gets paid.
Obama should explain that, while it would be catastrophic to our economy if the debt ceiling were not raised, he will do everything in his power to ensure the most important bills are paid. And, he believes that the most important bills are social security and Medicare. What Obama will not need to say but what the media will report is that it means that our debtors, the banks will not get paid.
In other words, once we reach the debt ceiling, regular Americans get paid but the banks don't. Republicans' heads will explode. On one hand, Obama gets to decide which programs live and which die. That's more power than any modern president has ever had. On the other hand, the republicans can raise the debt ceiling and get the government that they bargained for.
Fourth Monkeywrench: Make sure the republicans understand that when our nation can't pay its bills, Obama will make sure to pay bills to liberal causes before paying the conservative ones.
The point of this monkeywrenching isn't to make new constitutional law, appoint liberal judges, or penalize red districts. Rather, it would serve as a show of strength, put the republicans on the defensive, and draw this hostage taking to a much quicker conclusion.