It’s time to stop whining like a bunch of cranky toddlers and get into the game.
I’m talking about a rather extraordinary set of interviews highlighted in Politico’s Playbook last week, in which the so-called G-10 — a group of moderate Republican senators — erupted over what they feel is unfair treatment at the hands of the White House and media.
(I’m not sure what the “G” is supposed to stand for here. Maybe “grumpy,” or “geriatric.”)
Apparently these senators and their aides thought they were going to be pivotal dealmakers with a president who claimed to want bipartisanship, especially when they were invited to the White House in the early days of the administration to talk through their ideas for a covid-19 relief bill.
But instead they’ve been sidelined as President Biden rams through his expansive, left-wing agenda and somehow comes off in news accounts as a reasonable guy.
The president is “rubbing dirt in the face of Republicans,” one aide lamented. Another described being trapped in a “gaslighting chamber of insanity,” which sounds kind of like the tag line to a Jordan Peele movie.
What’s amazing to me is that a group of people who take such pride in their understanding of business could so completely fail to grasp the basic principles of negotiation.
Here’s an exercise. Let’s say you want to sell your car, and you set an asking price of $10,000, figuring you’ll take a little less.
A guy comes along and offers you $3,000 instead. Are you supposed to meet him in the middle? Or are you going to tell him to come back when he’s serious about buying the car?
That’s pretty much the situation in which Biden found himself. After Biden proposed a $1.9 trillion relief bill, on which he was probably expecting a reasonable counteroffer, the 10 Republican senators answered with a proposal for … $600 billion. That wasn’t even in the Zip code of reasonable.
Even then, they couldn’t guarantee the vote of every Republican in the room for their smaller package, much less anyone else in the caucus.
And yet these senators were apparently shocked when Biden refused to stop Democratic leaders from advancing his bill along party lines. I guess he was supposed to bargain against himself instead.
All this might have made sense if it were really just the kind of strategic feint Republican leaders used during the Obama years: Offer something obviously untenable and then gleefully blame the president for refusing to compromise. But this group actually seemed to think they were going to drive away in the car.
They seem to have forgotten that when a president wins an election by almost five percentage points, gets control of both chambers of Congress and proposes legislation that clear majorities of the country support, he really doesn’t need to meet you halfway.
Republicans used to say that elections have consequences. Well, turns out they do.
And you know what’s most galling about all this wailing among Republican moderates? They just spent four years watching a president of their own party rack up ungodly debt for no reason other than to reward rich people with tax cuts, and they barely registered a complaint.
Even when Donald Trump sought to overturn an election and dismantle the democracy, the self-aggrandizing G-10 did nothing but issue a few disparate statements.
Talk about your gaslighting chambers of insanity.
I happen to believe the country is better served by having serious-minded Republicans at the negotiating table. I think it would be better for Biden and for all of us if he were forced to make some hard choices about what to prioritize and how to pay for it, rather than tossing in every imaginable new program and slamming it home with a party-line vote.
That won’t happen, though, until Republican moderates stop their sobbing about the injustice of it all and start offering some realistic alternatives. They have another opportunity with the infrastructure bill, where there seems to be some hope of finding a reasonable compromise.
If they can’t negotiate that one, then maybe they should start calling themselves the “GNF-10.” As in: getting nowhere fast.