Saturday, November 8, 2014

Common Ground Versus Compromise

THC finds himself amazed to be citing Chris Matthews of MSNBC as a source for wisdom, but credit is due.  After watching the President's post-election press conference he said: 
What bothered me about him [today] he keeps talking about common ground. Damn it, there's very little common ground between left and right, but what there is is compromise. You do something for me on minimum wage, I'll do something for you in corporate tax reform. You give me something on corporate tax reform and I'll get rid of some of the loopholes or I'll do something on trade for you. He never talks about trading and compromising, he always talks about common ground. Well, damn it, you can not run a government on common ground
He misses the main point of politics which is to be a politician and to trade. Okay, you want this? You want to take care of people who have been here illegally for 20, 30 years? Here's what I want. No more illegal hiring, and that's all in the Senate bill. But he won't sell the compromise. There's something in this guy that just plays to his constituency and acts like there is no other room out there. And that's going to be a collision at the end of this year like you have never seen. I do believe it will be like waving a red flag in front of the bull. I think Mitch McConnell is headed for a fight with the president.
The distinction Matthews makes between common ground and trading and compromise is an important one and it is what enables politics to function.  Both parties need to keep this in mind.  Of course the trick is distinguishing between (1) what you can trade to get a compromise and what you can't trade because it is too close to core principles (contra Matthews, if all you do as a politician is trade you end up where we are now) or (2) just plain getting snookered on the trade (see George HW Bush circa 1991 for details). 

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