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Posted at 3:05 PM ET, 12/ 1/2010

Dems too quick to internalize that losing feeling

By Greg Sargent

Outgoing Ohio Governor Ted Strickland erupts in an interview with Sam Stein, blaming Dems for failing to win the argument over the Bush tax cuts:

Strickland said he was dumbfounded at the party's inability to sell the idea that the rates for the wealthy should be allowed to expire.

"I mean, if we can't win that argument we might as well just fold up," he said. "These people are saying we are going to insist on tax cuts for the richest people in the country and we don't care if they are paid for, and we don't think it is a problem if it contributes to the deficit, but we are not going to vote to extend unemployment benefits to working people if they aren't paid for because they contribute to the deficit. I mean, what is wrong with that? How can it be more clear?"

I understand Strickland's frustration, but he's wrong in a crucial sense. If you judge by public opinion, then Dems were winning the argument over the Bush tax cuts, and were in fact successfully selling the idea that the high end rates should expire.

Here, for instance, is a new Gallup poll out today finding that 44 percent want to let the tax cuts expire for various categories of wealthy Americans, while only 40 percent want to keep all the tax cuts. A Marist-McClatchy poll earlier this week found that 51 percent favor extending only the tax cuts for those under $250,000 (the position of most Dems), while 45 percent favor extending them all (the GOP position).

Meanwhile, a recent NBC/WSJ poll found that the Dem position of extending only the middle class tax cuts has far more support than any other option on the table right now.

At risk of overgeneralizing, the problem isn't that Dems aren't capable of winning an argument. It's that they don't think they're capable of winning a protracted political standoff, even on an issue where the public is on their side, once Republicans start going on the attack. They seem to set their goal early on at salvaging a compromise, rather than going for the win. As a result, they tend to telegraph weakness at the outset, sending a clear message that they'll essentially give Republicans what they want as long as they can figure out a way to call it a compromise.

By Greg Sargent  | December 1, 2010; 3:05 PM ET
Categories:  House Dems, Senate Dems, taxes  
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Comments

"...the problem isn't that Dems aren't capable of winning an argument..."

Yes, that is the problem. What is with all these extra words?

"I mean, if we can't win that argument we might as well just fold up," This is a good point.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

According to Senator Jon Kyl (via TPM), unless the richest 2% get their millions (actually $700 billion) in tax cuts from the rest of us, they will not act to protect our country and our families from nuclear materials. They will not ratify the START Treaty, which leaves us without inspections of the Russions and leaves nuclear material unsecured, until they get their tax cut. This is nuclear blackmail.

They are a bunch of f'ing thugs. Just thugs.

Posted by: Mimikatz | December 1, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Shameful. I'm disgusted as a democratic-leaning independent.

It's battered-wife syndrome and Democrats cave at even the hint of a fight.

I don't see how they do ANYTHING after this.

The abusive cycle must be broken at some point or there is no future in the Democratic party.

Posted by: dplionis | December 1, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

It's ceding the argument before the argument's already started. No matter what you say after that, you've already lost, because you've already said the other side is the better side.

It's utterly ridiculous, and guess what? The Republicans will continue to call you godless socialists and Anti-Americans because they can, and now they know it works enough to cow Dems and liberals into one-sided compromises, again, and again, and again.

Dems continue to learn the wrong lessons from their fights. They believe the only way to win is to forfeit before the match, and it's worked out about as well as anyone who isn't ensconced in the bubble of mainstream Dem thinking of "oh, if I'm nice enough, people will start to agree with me" could imagine. It's stupid, utterly ridiculous, and as the elections have noted, utterly demoralizing for your own side and ridiculously energizing for the other side. The GOP smells blood. The answer isn't to freakin' make your wounds wider in hope they get sick of tearing you apart.

Posted by: kryptik1 | December 1, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

shrink, they won the argument, judging by public opinion. and they don't know it. that's the point.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | December 1, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I agree that the Democrats HAVE won the argument on the Bush tax cuts.

But the problem isn't just about winning the argument but it is that we need 60 votes in the Senate to get anything done. If there are 5-10 Democratic Senators who want the Bush tax cuts for the rich extended for 2-3 years then what leverage does the President have and the rest of the Democratic Senators have?

As a result the "compromise" is going to be that there will be a 2-3 year extension of the Bush tax cuts for everyone in exchange for unemployment benefits during those years along with Obama's "make work pay" tax cuts and a compromise on the AMT, capital gains tax, and other taxes.

I personally have see no problem with extending the Bush tax cuts for 2-3 years if the Democrats get something MAJOR in return. The problem is that what will be the "MAJOR" thing that the Democrats will get in the return?.

Posted by: maritza1 | December 1, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

That is a much better point! That is THE point.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

maritza - That's the exact problem. We've seen this game played time and time again. Give the GOP an inch, they take a foot, then complain they weren't given a yard. Dems keep giving, GOP keeps taking and not only doesn't give anything back but turns it around and complains the Dems have taken too much. The GOP won't give ANYTHING up once the 'compromise' is hammered out, because they know they can do it and get away with it scot free by making Obama and the Dems take all the blame for the consequences.

Posted by: kryptik1 | December 1, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

"If there are 5-10 Democratic Senators who want the Bush tax cuts for the rich extended for 2-3 years then what leverage does the President have and the rest of the Democratic Senators have?"

Hint: The people of the United States of America.

Was that too subtle?

Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

"They are a bunch of f'ing thugs. Just thugs."

"Thugs" is as good a word as any I guess, but the word "traitor" has greater resonance. When is Obama going to go on prime time and just come out and say that the GOP (and name some names) don't have the country's interest at heart? Oh, wait, it's Obama the law professor, not the club fighter, so he'll cave.
Strickland is 100% correct. It's time to fold up the tent, at least for the next two years and then start again. Fox, talk radio, the congressional GOP and the robber barons of Wall Street have won this battle.

Posted by: filmnoia | December 1, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

@Greg: "The problem isn't that Dems aren't capable of winning an argument. It's that they don't think they're capable of winning a protracted political standoff."

Can you explain how the Dems can possibly win this protracted political standoff?

If the rates expire then the public will blame Obama and the Dems - they had more than enough time to fix this.

If the rates expire then the new GOP House will immediately pass a bill to re-establish the Bush rates.

Posted by: sbj3 | December 1, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

"Dems too quick to internalize that losing feeling"

maritza is Exhibit A

Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Even if Dems don't have the votes in the Senate, that doesn't mean they should signal early on in the negotiating process that they're willing to embrace the GOP's version of "compromise." That's the point.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | December 1, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"Can you explain how the Dems can possibly win this protracted political standoff?"

Hint: The people of the United States of America.

Was that too subtle?

Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Clearly, the Democrats suffer from PTSD. Shrink, this is a job for you!

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

wbgonne - It's not PSTD. It's Stockholm's Syndrome.

Posted by: kryptik1 | December 1, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Strickland is right: actually the argument sells itself. It's just that there does not seem to be a voice, in the official circles, that is even trying to articulate it!

Posted by: AMviennaVA | December 1, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

"Strickland is right: actually the argument sells itself. It's just that there does not seem to be a voice, in the official circles, that is even trying to articulate it!"

Where the heck is that president guy?

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

"Where the heck is that president guy?"

Too busy self-flagellating himself for not being bipartisan enough. Because, you know, the GOP has just been waiting so long to compromise with the Dems.

Posted by: kryptik1 | December 1, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

they are preparing to fold like they have for everything else the GOP has pressed them on. It's time they grew a spine and began governing since the GOP have no interest and when they do they just make things worse. The Dems need to allow the "Bush' cuts to expire and then present their own middle class tax cuts. They have to learn to stop just reacting to noise from the right and do what they were elected to do!

Posted by: bunkai5 | December 1, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Dean in 2012!

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

"I understand Strickland's frustration, but he's wrong in a crucial sense. If you judge by public opinion, then Dems were winning the argument over the Bush tax cuts, and were in fact successfully selling the idea that the high end rates should expire. "

If this was the case, they should have held a vote before the election, even if they lost, to make the point and then let the voters decide.

Gallup polls don't mean much to Democratic Representatives & Senators who have just lost their seats.

This reads really funny in hindsight:

"Hoyer on Thursday reiterated his position that the House should wait to see what the Senate would do, and that delaying a vote would not hurt his party’s chances in November.

“We don’t need to have a vote to let the American public know where we stand,” Hoyer said. "

"Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), an influential voice within the Democratic Conference, warned that if Democrats voted to allow taxes to increase on wealthy families, it would give their opponents political ammunition.

“My own view is that it should not be done before an election, it should be done after the election,” said Feinstein. "

http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/domestic-taxes/120687-dems-put-off-tax-cut-votes-until-after-election

The fundamental truth is that loosing seats in an election does not put a party in a stronger position in the lame duck session, as you linked to earlier from the NYT.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/01/business/economy/01leonhardt.html

Posted by: jnc4p | December 1, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Once again, the Democrats burn and sink like a Transocean oil rig.

If this were just a game it would be harder to watch than Cash Cab.

By the way, Stockholm syndrome is a form of PTSD.

"Shrink, this is a job for you!" I called my Shop Steward and she said ixnay on working outside my job classification (once I was reprimanded for (1) oiling the hinges on the door to my office, (2) adjusting the time on my wall clock and (3) putting up a picture on the wall, a repeat offender you see.)


Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

This also reminds me a lot of Tom Daschle's capitulation to the Bush Administration on the Iraq war authorization and other measures in 2002 right before the election so that they could get national security off the table and focus on economic issues that they wanted to discuss. It didn't turn out so well for the Democrats.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A64509-2002Sep10?language=printer

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/onpolitics/transcripts/senaterollcall_iraq101002.htm

Posted by: jnc4p | December 1, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

From a post at TPM by "NCSteve" (I hope he doesn't mind).

"I think it's appropriate to step back, just for a moment, from the grinding our own political axes and need to discuss the appropriate political response, and just give a moment's thought to what a truly sad day this is for the United States. In one sense, it's just a tiny escalation in the spiral of brazenness and obstructionism we've seen from the Republican Party over the last two decades. But in another, very real sense, this is a moment that makes it clear how far down the path of self-destruction we've come.

Today we have an important Republican senator proudly, unashamedly, brazenly announcing the final death of the principle that "politics ends at the shoreline." It's been an important principle in our history, often bent but never explicitly repudiated, one that's enabled us to survive bare-knuckle political infighting without losing our ability to function as a nation on the international stage. One that recognizes that whatever our political differences, we are all Americans with a shared stake in our country foreign policy.

And today that's dead.

Because today, a high ranking Republican senator explicitly announced that his party was going to hold passage of a critically important treaty-- a strategic nuclar arms control treaty, for God's sake, negotiated in part by members of their party and whose passage is urgently sought by the foreign policy experts of their own party--will be held hostage to his party's demand that deficit-financed tax cuts for rich people be extended. And that's not the real shame or the real horror. Frankly, none of us who've been paying attention are shocked.

The real tragedy is that we aren't shocked by his candor. The real shame and the real harbinger of doom is that he knows he can be candid because our corrupt, degenerate mainstream media no longer has even the capacity to see this as anything other than "savvy, tough hardball politics" to be fawned over and respected, rather than denounced as a national scandal and a disgrace.

Kyl is doing this precisely because he knows he and his party will pay no price for it and, indeed, will likely be richly rewarded. "

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | December 1, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

jnc4p exactly.

I can't stand Daschle (but I do ♥ Howard Dean).
Obama forgot who elected him and why we did that.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

The House is holding a vote tomorrow on taxes. Dems haven't folded on crap.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 1, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

"Dean in 2012!"

Dean is now in DC as a "Strategic Advisor" to a large law firm, so he's become, as far as I'm concerned, part of the problem. I would now actually hope that the GOP nominates someone like Palin, and that she beats Obama. I've come to the conclusion over the last few months that we as a society deserve her.

Posted by: filmnoia | December 1, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

NCSteve in 2012!

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

"...he knows he can be candid because our corrupt, degenerate mainstream media..."

Nonsense. Being candid is good. The Democrats are the reason the Republicans are running over the Democrats.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

"By the way, Stockholm syndrome is a form of PTSD."

Really? I was not aware of this. But then again, I am a pure layman on this subject, so I will take your word and have learned something today.

Posted by: kryptik1 | December 1, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

"I now actually hope Palin...beats Obama...we as a society deserve her."

Stockholm syndrome?

Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

"I've come to the conclusion over the last few months that we as a society deserve her."

You must be a Catholic. In any event, we may get her whether we deserve her or not. Apropos of nothing, a report was just issued listing the "smartest" cities in the country. Guess how many are in the South? Six. Out of 50.

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2010/12/01/orlando-115th-on-brainpower-index.html

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

So, if middle class get their tax cut, DREAM passes, the START treaty passes and the Defense Authorization Bill with the DADT repeal passes does that still make Obama and the Dems failures if the top 2% get a two year extension?

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 1, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Chuck (quoting NCSteve):

"Today we have an important Republican senator proudly, unashamedly, brazenly announcing the final death of the principle that "politics ends at the shoreline." "

The rest of the post shows pretty clearly that NCSteve hasn't the slightest idea what the principle even means. Nor, it seems given your posting of it here as if it were noteworthy, do you.

Posted by: ScottC3 | December 1, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

All, check out the House Dem pushback on tomorrow's spin war over the tax cut vote:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/12/dems_push_back.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | December 1, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

"You must be a Catholic. In any event, we may get her whether we deserve her or not. Apropos of nothing, a report was just issued listing the "smartest" cities in the country. Guess how many are in the South? Six. Out of 50."

Baptized as one, but for many decades have been a fulltime heathen. Come 2012, if you bring the nails, I'll bring the cross. I'm surprised that the South even has 6 cities in that report. All the more reason why we should let the South secede. It can only raise the collective IQ.

Posted by: filmnoia | December 1, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

At risk of overgeneralizing, the problem isn't that Dems aren't capable of winning an argument. It's that they don't think they're capable of winning a protracted political standoff, even on an issue where the public is on their side


_____________________________

Not really - remember the democrats in Washington have all been bought off by the special interests time and time again


Greg - you still believe that these guys represent the poor and the innercities?


it's that liberal rube thing again

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

So ScottC3-

What *about* the GOP heavyhitters that support START? Or, do you agree with Kyl that this is a fair subject for horsetrading?

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | December 1, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Strickland for DNC chair?

Posted by: jbossch | December 1, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

my goodness. Teddy Strickland is venting his frustration on others. I seems that he's in between the anger and denial phases of his grieving process.

Ted deserved to lose. he's a union patsy, and an inept leader. Ohio bled 400,000 jobs while he was in office. He didn't keep a key promise he made about school financing. He's a goner. bye bye teddy. The local radio station repeatedly plays a quote from one of his state of the state addresses: Surely we're smarter than the goose. Yuppers teddy, we fired you. What more proof is required?

next, the Democrats and liberals keep missing the point. It isn't that the argument can't be made. It is that the argument is specious and as the last election shows, the America voters got that.

to the Democrats, the only thing that matters is that the american workers cough up enough money to sustain the liberal agenda. Therefore hammering the rich is mandatory.

What the American people overwhelmingly voted for, however, was a reduction in spending. Tax increases as a means of deficit reduction simply doesn't resonate. Spending reductions do. After all spending reductions dovetail nicely into the demand that government size and scope be reduced.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 1, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm...and here I thought Kyl opposed START for substanstive problems with the treaty. I recall a number of posters claiming as much. So are those substantive problems no loger there, is Kyl admitting he was wrong about those being problems, or is Kyl simply announcing his willingness to vote in favor of a substantively flawed treaty?

Posted by: ashotinthedark | December 1, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Chuck:

"What *about* the GOP heavyhitters that support START?"

What about them? My point was simply that opposition to START, or using it as a negotiating tool, has nothing whatsoever to do with the notion that "politics ends at that shoreline".

Posted by: ScottC3 | December 1, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

it seems that the "do as I say not as I do" syndrome strikes a phenomenal number of liberals here's a good example:
==============
Today we have an important Republican senator proudly, unashamedly, brazenly announcing the final death of the principle that "politics ends at the shoreline." It's been an important principle in our history, often bent but never explicitly repudiated, one that's enabled us to survive bare-knuckle political infighting without losing our ability to function as a nation on the international stage. One that recognizes that whatever our political differences, we are all Americans with a shared stake in our country foreign policy.

And today that's dead.

========

Yes, I'm absolutely certain that Senator Harry Reid had no intention of repudiating the concept of the waterline when he announced to the world that the Iraq war was lost.

it resonated so well with folks like me. You know, the folks with sons fighting in Iraq at the time. yeah, the waterline.

Just like Dick turban's comparison of the US military to pol pot's thugs. The waterline concept was foremost in his mind I'm so sure.

Just like Teddy boy Kennedy ( I believe in hell because that's the only way a murderer like ted gets his due) declared that Abu Grabanarab was open under new management. Certainly Mr Kennedy, who was no doubt borderline sober when he made the statement was cognizant of the need to defend the concept of waterline.

What many liberals simply refuse to acknowledge is that their behavior during the Bush years has ramifications now. It isn't about hypocrasy at all. It is about the fact that civility and restraint were destroyed by Bush's political opponents. Now, when they are on the receiving end of the same techniques, they whine for behavior they refused to show themselves.

Once more, with feeling: you made this bed. Lie in it in silence.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 1, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

"Once more, with feeling: you made this bed. Lie in it in silence."

Oh come on. This bed has been made by both parties for decades and at no point did one party just sit there silently while the other side turned their own tactics against them. So we'll keep the bed warm for you because soon enough it will be your turn all over again.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | December 1, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Aww Skip,

Those examples you provided are in the "bent" category. Just like John Kerry interfering with the Paris peace accords or back to Teddy telling the Russians, when Reagan was President, He'll run interference for them.

And I salute your son for his service. Please thank him for me.

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | December 1, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

That the Dems mostly fail to connect the dots between the GOP refusing to extend unemployment benefits "because of the deficit" but that same GOP wants to blow the deficit to smithereens with tax breaks for the rich, aaayyyeee! Makes me crazy!

Not even crumbs for people who want to work but can't find it. Tax cuts for the rich as corporations make record (often untaxed) profits. This is a toxic combo of GOP wrong, if anyone would bother to actually, y'know, talk about it!

Posted by: RalfW | December 1, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

I would bet good money that even as we speak, at least 8 out of every 10 phone calls being received by Democratic members of congress are from people parroting the Republican talking points on this question. Hard to put ~too~ much stock in polls when your phones are ringing off the hook with people calling you a dirty tax-raiser.

The right wing simply does this stuff better than the left, partly by virtue of the fact that there are more of them, but mostly because they're better organized. When was the last time anyone here picked up the telephone and called their congresspeople? (E-mails don't count BTW. Most of them are still stuck firmly in the 20th century.)

Posted by: CalD | December 1, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

No one apparently wants to discuss the GOP heavyhitters who support START. But, hey, that's ok, they'd rather talk about Kennedy. Its so 1971.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | December 1, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm with Strickland on this, the Dems have not won this argument because, frankly, we're still arguing! This should have been finished up in October if not sooner; why wait until now? And even now, it still isn't certain that the Dems will get the votes to pass it. Why not? Because of other Democrats! It is absolutely stupid. Obama took a mandate for change and turned it into another mandate for change which will lead to yet more calls for change. Meanwhile, all the American people have left in their pocket is change!

Posted by: matt_ahrens | December 1, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

matt-

r u 4 real? Seriously. Are you a troller who decides its time to finally come clean at The Washington Post and has a beef with Govt/Obama/Bush/etc.?

'Cause I'm with you...

Preach if U r 4 real...

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | December 2, 2010 4:44 AM | Report abuse

On an issue like taxes, politicians aren't going to be looking at general population opinion polls. They'll look at the opinions of those who actually vote.

Posted by: besnyder1 | December 2, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Why d'ya think the Reichpubliscums spent so much money in defeating Alan Grayson?

They damn well knew this guy could become a Dem leader with the necessary killer instincts to fire up the base and steam rolled the GOP silly.

Tell you what: Grayson move to NYC (like Hillary did) and that would be it!

McConnell and Co. could prepare their back pack and empty their offices.

Posted by: grosmec | December 2, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

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