02 January 2013

Time for Democrats to Use Political Judo and Give the GOP What it Wants

Isn't it a principle of martial arts to use your opponent's energy against him? He lunges for you and rather than pushing back you accelerate his forward movement with a pull and a flip, doubling the force against him and avoiding it completely? Hold that thought.

When LBJ signed the civil rights legislation that ended segregation, he commented that the Democratic Party had lost the south for a generation. Good old boys were a big component of the Democratic Party, or had been until it made racists feel unwelcome. Sometimes a party's policy victory can lead to political defeat: before the Civil Rights legislation, Democrats had won the White House in 8 out of 10 elections; after, they won only 1 of 6 presidential elections.

The Republicans continue to insist that we need to reduce the deficit by spending cuts alone. I think that the Democrats should feign defeat and give them exactly that. They should loudly protest and register their disapproval and predict disaster but should still pretend to (or perhaps really) be unable to overcome negotiations stalemate over a debt ceiling discussion, for instance. Let the Republicans have their huge budget cuts and watch voters avoid them for a generation.

If Republicans got what they claim they want, two things would happen. One, short-term the economy would contract. Horribly, because this unemployment would have little or no cushion. Two, it would mean a massive slashing of entitlement spending. At this point it is worth noting that recipients of entitlement spending call it by different names, using labels like "my social security check," or "my medicare insurance coverage." Now at this point Republicans would protest that their plans to slash social security are only for future generations, but of course that would do nothing for current deficits. One way or another, they'd have to cut something now. And it would not be small cuts.

Even short of economic catastrophe and hardship for millions, it would be worth taking the Republicans seriously and coaxing out of them a real balanced budget that does not involve tax hikes. Cutting a trillion from a 3 trillion budget would alienate huge swaths of the electorate. Like civil rights legislation that lost the south, Republican's balanced budget sans tax hikes could alienate at least enough voters to ensure a Democratic White House as far as the eye can see.

Maybe it is time that Democrats stopped resisting Republicans and instead let them use their own energy to lose voters. A little political judo seems in order.

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