After weeks of intense focus on the crisis in Syria, the White House is set to turn to the economy. President Obama (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

I’ve noted that the government shutdown bears a resemblance to collective bargaining and strike situations. This is especially true in one regard.

Sometimes, unions overreach. They raise their members’ expectations about what can be obtained. They can’t get what they want at the bargaining table, and they are boxed in, almost forced to take their members out on strike. After that, the chief negotiator turns to his group to ask, “So what can we give them to get them back?”

His bargaining team, grouchy and exhausted, revolts. “Nothing!” “What do you mean –give them something!?” “Why should we have to give them something?”

Yes, it is galling having to bail out the people on the other side because of their stupidity, and, yes, life’s not fair. But the obligation — owed to the company and to the employees — is to get the mess resolved. There are innocent victims beyond the immediate parties, such as employees at suppliers’ companies, pension and health beneficiaries and the general public. So the company negotiator does it; he offers some small incentive, a face-saver to get the union back to the table and everyone back to work.

That is how it works in the labor context. I’ve seen it time and time again. The same is true here. To the Democrats, I say what any responsible negotiator would say: Yes, the Republicans were wrong to try to force defunding via one house of the legislative branch. Yes, you shouldn’t have to give them something. Sure, they made this mess. But having the White House (like occupying the chief executive position) means you get over it.

Neither company negotiators nor the Democrats need to or should give the other side what they unreasonably asked for (e.g. defund Obamacare), but they could give them something (a suspension of the medical-device tax, a complete and timely audit of the glitches in the exchanges). In the shutdown debacle, the Republicans still will have lost their quest for Obamacare defunding, and they still will have to explain why they got so little. They will see that “not blinking” is an inane way to govern.

But, by giving them an inch, the Democrats also have will have refused to provide to the GOP an excuse that Democrats are equally intransigent. And Democrats will have done what it takes to pull the country back from the brink. In doing so, they might even convince some Republicans disgusted with the right-wing hotheads that Democrats aren’t all bad.