Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

People don't really care about "compromise"

By Greg Sargent

CBS News has a new poll out finding that huge majorities of Americans want Obama and Republicans to "compromise," rather than hold out for what they believe in. This echoes what we keep being told about the midterm elections: It proves the American people want the two parties to "work together to get things done."

Let's stipulate at the outset that these types of statements don't have any meaning in the real world. People differ on what constitutes compromise to begin with, viewing it through the prism of what they want.

On the Bush tax cuts, for instance, Republicans will likely think it's a compromise if all the Bush tax cuts are extended temporarily, because their starting point is that they want them all extended permanently. But from the point of view of Democrats, that wouldn't be a compromise at all. Their idea of a compromise would be if the middle class cuts made permanent while the high end ones are extended temporarily, because their starting point is that the middle class ones should be extended forever and the high end ones should expire.

It's easy for people to say they want the two parties to "work together to get things done" when those "things" haven't been defined yet. It's easy for people to tell pollsters they crave some sort of generic notion of "compromise." The hard part comes when people are asked to agree to a specific "compromise" that requires them to sacrifice some or all of what they actually want. Then they forget all about wanting compromise, and suddenly start wanting their leaders to fight.

People don't give leaders points for occuping some sort of precious moral high ground that comes with being more compromising than the other side. People give leaders points for delivering what they want, which of course varies wildly from one constituency to another. One party, it seems, understands this far better than the other one does.

By Greg Sargent  | November 11, 2010; 1:19 PM ET
Categories:  2010 elections, taxes  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The crux of the issue
Next: Poll: GOPers want their leaders to be more conservative, less cooperative

Comments

I think what people really want is for the two sides to actually hash out what ideas they really do have- and adopt some of each, so when constructing a bill with some liberal and some conservative ideas, as opposed to finding the middle ground on each idea and thereby pleasing nobody.

Posted by: holyhandgrenaid | November 11, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

holyhandgrenaid -- fair point. I think that falls under people wanting the parties to fight for what they want...

Posted by: Greg Sargent | November 11, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Hope? Change?

“We have to deal with the world as we find it,” Mr. Axelrod told a reporter.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 11, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Let them all expire ... filibuster any proposal that includes a tax cut for the rich. There is no way that any of the cuts should ever become permanent. Eliminate the income cutoff for the FICA tax and means test social security.

If the GOP wants a class war, the Dems sure better be on right side.

Bring it on. Better yet, let's roll.

Posted by: pragmaticagain | November 11, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

“We have to deal with the world as we find it,” Mr. Axelrod told a reporter.

Posted by: wbgonne

"As you know, ah, you go to legislate with the Congress you have---not the Congress you might want or wish to have at a later time.---You can have all the support in the world on a bill and it can (still) be blown up..."

-- Donvid Rumsrod

Posted by: bearclaw1 | November 11, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

How do the rich "folks" fight the class war? With patent dishonesty:

Investors around the world say President Barack Obama is bad for the bottom line, even though U.S. corporations are on track for the biggest earnings growth in 22 years and the stock market is headed for its best back-to- back annual gains since 2004.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-11/investors-show-obama-no-respect-in-poll-as-profits-surge-with-u-s-stocks.html

Posted by: pragmaticagain | November 11, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Greg,

Can you shed any light on the possibility of Dems avoiding a "compromise" of any kind by having Pelosi bring up two bills during the lame duck session--one to extend all Bush tax cuts, which would be either killed by congressional Dems or vetoed by Obama, and another brand new measure to permanently cut tax cuts for the middle class? Seems like it would be a winner both politically and policy-wise; what would stop them from being able to do this?

Thanks,
Billy

Posted by: billy_burdett | November 11, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Greg,

Can you shed any light on the possibility of Dems avoiding a "compromise" of any kind by having Pelosi bring up two bills during the lame duck session--one to extend all Bush tax cuts, which would be either killed by congressional Dems or vetoed by Obama, and another brand new measure to permanently cut tax cuts for the middle class? Seems like it would be a winner both politically and policy-wise; what would stop them from being able to do this?

Thanks,
Billy

Posted by: billy_burdett | November 11, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Greg,

Can you shed any light on the possibility of Dems avoiding a "compromise" of any kind by having Pelosi bring up two bills during the lame duck session--one to extend all Bush tax cuts, which would be either killed by congressional Dems or vetoed by Obama, and another brand new measure to permanently cut tax cuts for the middle class? Seems like it would be a winner both politically and policy-wise; what would stop them from being able to do this?

Thanks,
Billy

Posted by: billy_burdett | November 11, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Greg,

Can you shed any light on the possibility of Dems avoiding a "compromise" of any kind by having Pelosi bring up two bills during the lame duck session--one to extend all Bush tax cuts, which would be either killed by congressional Dems or vetoed by Obama, and another brand new measure to permanently cut tax cuts for the middle class? Seems like it would be a winner both politically and policy-wise; what would stop them from being able to do this?

Thanks,
Billy

Posted by: billy_burdett | November 11, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

@Greg: You had me in agreement right up to: "People give leaders points for delivering what they want... One party, it seems, understands this far better than the other one does."

You seem to still believe that the Dems compromised "too much" and that's why they got shellacked in the midterms. IMO that's a laughable opinion and simply not true. The Dems lost in the midterms because they didn't give us what we wanted. That wasn't due to compromising too much, that was due to ramming through carp that didn't reflect the people's priorities.

Posted by: sbj3 | November 11, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Meh.

The Repubs have absolutely no incentive to compromise - they've been rewarded handsomely by the voters, the WH, and the blue dogs for effectively stamping their feet and holding their breath until they turned blue. Much like my toddlers, they've learned what behavior achieves the desired outcome.

Posted by: schrodingerscat | November 11, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

What was the "carp" that was rammed through? Health care? Except the President campaigned on this and said that it was his number one priority. It only became a fish after the GOP lied and misled about it and Nelson and Lieberman paid their corporate masters.

Posted by: pragmaticagain | November 11, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

@Holy:

"I think what people really want is for the two sides to actually hash out what ideas they really do have- and adopt some of each"

Haha! So you mean people want, um, COMPROMISE!

Btw, I agree with you entirely Holy, I just find it remarkable and flummoxing that we have to sit here and hold the GOP's hand while defining the mode of negotiation that led to the founding of this country in the first place (i.e. without compromise there would be NO CONSTITUTION!).

Also,

Greg,

This is the classic Bush GOP tactic!

Bush was My-Way-Or-The-Highway from Day 1.

This is just more Bushian/Neocon Republicanism writ large. And it's time that the idiot, sorry, Beltway class of journalists recognized it as such.

Yes? Whaddya think, Greg?

Posted by: Ethan2010 | November 11, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

@pragmatic: "Investors around the world say President Barack Obama is bad for the bottom line, even though U.S. corporations are on track for the biggest earnings growth in 22 years and the stock market is headed for its best back-to- back annual gains since 2004."

Really? How many investors are actually saying that Barack Obama is bad for the bottom line?

Seems to me, he's great for the fat cats on Wallstreet. Just not so hot for the middle class or the unemployment rate. ;)

@schrodingerscat: "The Repubs have absolutely no incentive to compromise - they've been rewarded handsomely by the voters, the WH, and the blue dogs for effectively stamping their feet and holding their breath until they turned blue. "

A counter intuitive strategy, but it paid off. :P

Although the question for me always has to be, if the Republicans won in this last campaign cycle by doing nothing and promising a negative, how bad did the Democrats have to suck?

@sbj3: "That wasn't due to compromising too much"

Could have been because of compromising on the wrong things. Although what is often called "compromise" is just political sausage making. It's how things get done, and the voters who turned out for Captain Hopey Changey in 2008 were not satisfied that Obama hadn't done everything and then some. At least, some of them.

But it's not a matter of "ramming stuff down people's throats", either. At least, I don't think. I think it's that not enough was done specifically regarding the economy, and much of what was done didn't work for everybody. I don't think people were voting against HCR, or would have cared much about HCR if unemployment had been low and the economy was roaring along. It's not that they did it, per se, as much as it was: "Really? You're doing this *now*? I think Cap and Trade would be similarly perceived, except by the deep blue base, and those guys will just be disappointed in all the compromises it would take to get Cap and Trade passed.

As a wise Arkansan once said: it's the economy, stupid.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 11, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Apologies for the repeats; my phone's going haywire.

Posted by: billy_burdett | November 11, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

"Although the question for me always has to be, if the Republicans won in this last campaign cycle by doing nothing and promising a negative, how bad did the Democrats have to suck?"

Pretty bad. But then when you've got "Dems" like Nelson, Lincoln, and Bayh it's pretty easy to set new records for "suckiness".

Posted by: schrodingerscat | November 11, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

@pragmatic: "What was the "carp" that was rammed through? Health care? Except the President campaigned on this and said that it was his number one priority."

He campaigned on it but that's not why people voted for him. They voted for him because they disapproved of the Iraq war and they thought he could do better with the economy.

The "carp" was anything and everything that hasn't improved the economy in their personal experience.

Posted by: sbj3 | November 11, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Here's your answer Kevin -

Investors are evenly split over their overall impression of the president, though 62 percent of those in the U.S. view him negatively. Worldwide, 63 percent of all respondents say his policies are detrimental to the U.S. investment climate. That number increases to 68 percent among U.S. investors, even though the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has risen more than 43 percent since Obama was inaugurated in January 2009 and corporate profits have rebounded almost to the pre-recession peak reached in 2006.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-11/investors-show-obama-no-respect-in-poll-as-profits-surge-with-u-s-stocks.html

Posted by: pragmaticagain | November 11, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

"Apologies for the repeats; my phone's going haywire."

More than likely it's the site. It gets buggy at times.

Posted by: schrodingerscat | November 11, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

@SBJ: "He campaigned on it but that's not why people voted for him."

You're right.

I voted for him because he's a Muslim.

Health care, Shmealth Care.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | November 11, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Greg

When the word "compromise" is being used to get Obama elected - and to somehow make the case that the Republicans have not been governing correctly, then the liberals are in favor of it.


What you don't get is the American People DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE LIBERAL AGENDA.


All this mish-mash above is a bunch of silly-talk which makes no sense at all. The American People do not want your liberal agenda. So if compromise means the liberals get what they want or not is really not the issue.


Clearly, liberals like you are part of the problem.


The survey is saying that GREG LIBERALS LIKE YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. And then you are quibbling, no, "the people don't even know the meaning of the words in the survey."

HOW STUPID IS THAT REPLY?


.

Posted by: OrangeForces | November 11, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Of course people want compromise Ethan. The problem is that it seems neither side of the table in government actually knows what compromise is. Its tit-for-tat, not 'I get everything I want [GOP interpretation]' or 'Water-down every aspect of the bill even though it still won't please the other side while just pissing off my constituents [Dem interpretation]'

Posted by: holyhandgrenaid | November 11, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

OT:

Red November?!

-Top Russian spy defects after unmasking U.S. ring-

A Moscow newspaper, Kommersant, has reported that a Colonel Shcherbakov, who ran Russia's deep-cover U.S. spying operations, was responsible for the spies' unmasking, and that he left Russia just days before the spy-ring arrests were announced June 28. Gennady Gudkov, a Russian lawmaker who sits on Pariliament's national security committee, has confirmed the Kommersant report.

Shcherbakov, whose first name was not reported, would become one of the most high-ranking turncoats since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_upshot/20101111/us_yblog_upshot/top-russian-spy-defects-after-unmasking-u-s-ring

Maybe he just wanted to see Montana.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | November 11, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

@kevin: "It's not a matter of "ramming stuff down people's throats", either. At least, I don't think. I think it's that not enough was done specifically regarding the economy, and much of what was done didn't work for everybody. I don't think people were voting against HCR, or would have cared much about HCR if unemployment had been low and the economy was roaring along. It's not that they did it, per se, as much as it was: "Really? You're doing this *now*? I think Cap and Trade would be similarly perceived."

Very well put and I agree. The Dems only "rammed" things through in the sense that the GOP was eventually perceived as saying, "No. Stop the HCR now and do it later. Concentrate on the economy." And instead the Dems bypassed normal procedures to get it done.

Posted by: sbj3 | November 11, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I wouldn't mind letting all the the tax cuts expire rather than give in to the GOP's irrational and selfish behavior.

I make about 40k/yr and my tax cut was about 900 dollars. I am willing to sacrifice that to help all Americans.

I have written President Obama to let him know how I feel.

I urge all progressives and rational conservatives to write him also and let him know how we feel. If we progressives and rational conservatives, just watch and nash our teeth watching Obama cave in, we feel frustrated and helpless. This is a way to influence President Obama. Believe me, if enough of us write him, he will listen and be influenced.

Please write today.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Posted by: celested91 | November 11, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

@Kevin_Willis: "I think it's that not enough was done specifically regarding the economy"

"I think it's that the GOP didn't allow enough to be done specifically regarding the economy"

There. Fixed.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | November 11, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Okay, here's the deal: Obama agrees to extend the Bush tax cuts temporarily for all if the Republicans agree to reauthorize UI benefits for at least two years.

If the Republicans don't agree. Do nothing but sit back and allow the Republicans Hooverize not only the 15 million strong unemployed but the entire middle class as well for the next two years.

ex animo
http://nolp.blogspot.com
batazoid

Posted by: davidfarrar1 | November 11, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Greg you said "What you don't get is the American People DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE LIBERAL AGENDA."

How dare you speak for all of us?

50 PERCENT OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE CONSERVATIVE AGENDA. However the conservatives lie and want power for its own sake; the liberals want to govern for the good of all.

Do you see the problem for Dems? They are just not willing to lie and cheat to get power.

Posted by: celested91 | November 11, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

@Holy, imho you're exactly right.

Dems need their starting point to be further Left. That way, a compromise will truly be a centrist compromise and not potentially viewed as capitulation by the Left. I think it's safe to say that the Right will never be satisfied ever with any negotiation. Even if they get everything they want, it won't be enough.

I hope the Dems learn that.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | November 11, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

@ethan: "I voted for him because he's a Muslim. Health care, Shmealth Care."

I would never presume to understand why you vote they way you do ethan, but with all respect, the economy and jobs were by far the most important issue that folks based their votes on in 2008.

Posted by: sbj3 | November 11, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Ethan - Fascinating link.

I really miss that pretty red headed spy (Anna?) and hope she is doing well.

Posted by: HansSolo | November 11, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Amazing numbers in the new Pew poll show how different GOPers and Dems view their leaders:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/11/republicans_want_their_leaders.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | November 11, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

The Republican concept of compromise comes from the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. Specifically, "What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine too."

The Democrats are so awestruck by this simple formulation that they repeatedly and predictably accede to it.

Posted by: bearclaw1 | November 11, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

@SBJ: "with all respect, the economy and jobs were by far the most important issue that folks based their votes on in 2008"

Really?!

I'm frigging STUNNED over here. That's news to me. /sarc

Of course those were the most important issues. That's why you voted for McShame/Palin, right? Because they were so well-versed in economic policy?

Posted by: Ethan2010 | November 11, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

@ethan: Discussing something with you is like jogging on a giant hamster wheel.

Posted by: sbj3 | November 11, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

We are all involved in class war, we never weren't. Class war is a relentless reality, it underlies tribalism, bigotry, nationalism, baboon pack behavior, it is all about status, it is amoral not immoral, it can be mitigated and it can never go away. Humans are hierarchical, they love to rate better than v less than, fantasy football, smarts, game shows, prettier, holier, it never ever stops, better than, less than, better than, less than. It isn't a bad thing it is amoral.

Anyway, China was on the receiving end back in the days of the opium trade and then the construction of the American West. They took he vicious punishment of the Japanese, they put up with Hong Kong...but now we play with their deck of cards.

It used to be, when people played with our deck, they always lost, no matter how hard they worked, no matter what it seemed like they should have earned. Awhile ago we lost control. We are not The House.

If we continue on this way, we may not deserve the hand we are dealt, but we will only be able to play the hand we are dealt. But although it is not too late, we are not in a position to fight amongst ourselves anymore. mark_kidwell had a good idea last thread.

It has to make sense to keep investment capital concentrated on a healthy American Middle Class, or there is no point in thinking America matters.


Posted by: shrink2 | November 11, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

The Dems only "rammed" things through in the sense that the GOP was eventually perceived as saying, "No. Stop the HCR now and do it later. Concentrate on the economy." And instead the Dems bypassed normal procedures to get it done.

Posted by: sbj3 | November 11, 2010 2:34 PM

Sure ... the GOP would have worked with the Dems on healthcare if they would only wait till "later".

And what, exactly, does "concentrate" on the economy mean? Stare at charts? Lie awake at night thinking about it? The stimulus was passed and several other bills targeted at the economy were offered. What did the GOP do to "concentrate" on the economy? Filibuster darn near everything.

Posted by: pragmaticagain | November 11, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

SBJ, exercise is good for your health.

Voting GOP is bad for it.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | November 11, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

@prag: "And what, exactly, does "concentrate" on the economy mean?"

Pass something that actually impacts the wallet of the middle class.

I can only speak for myself but the mortgage help, the GM buyout, the unemployment extensions, the cash for clunkers - none of that helped me. Wall street reform, HCR, credit card reform, TARP II, the stimulus, domestic partner fed benefits/visitation, Ledbetter act - these help me in an abstract way but didn't make my paycheck any bigger. There are plenty of middle class folks who feel the same way and that's why they voted for the other team in 2010.

"Sure ... the GOP would have worked with the Dems on healthcare if they would only wait till "later"."

Well, I didn't say that, now did I? But I'm sure the GOP would've given the Dems and Obama mad props if they would have shelved the Obamacare monstrosity. And I'm sure that if the economy had been roaring along then more than a few members of the GOP would have jumped on the comprehensive HCR bandwagon.

Posted by: sbj3 | November 11, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

But I'm sure the GOP would've given the Dems and Obama mad props if they would have shelved the Obamacare monstrosity. And I'm sure that if the economy had been roaring along then more than a few members of the GOP would have jumped on the comprehensive HCR bandwagon.

Posted by: sbj3 | November 11, 2010 3:14 PM

I spit coffee all over my computer with that one. You really need to share whatever it is you are smoking/drinking/shootingup/snorting.

Posted by: pragmaticagain | November 11, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

@prag: "You really need to share whatever it is you are smoking/drinking/shootingup/snorting."

SBJ's really got the disingenuous thing down to a science.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | November 11, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company