Choosing Your Hill to Die On

Some folks know only one gear.

For some folks, their one gear can best be described as CHAAAAAARGE!! In politics, every single thing that any Republican does that displeases them in the least is grounds to threaten to NEVER DONATE TO OR VOTE FOR A REPUBLICAN AGAIN. Threatening total abandonment of politics (or voting third party, or for Democrats), is the only negotiating tactic these people know. Similarly, everything Obama and/or the Democrats do is the most shocking attack on capitalism and the Constitution that has ever been seen in the history of ever.

Another group of folks knows only the gear that we will call “Congress.” Another word for this gear is “retreat.” For these folks, there is always an excuse for capitulation, always a reason to bend to pragmatism, always a reason to not rock the boat. No matter what horrible thing the Republicans do, we dare not abandon them and be left to the Democrats. To these folks, we dare not risk provoking either a governmental shutdown or the teachers’ unions, no matter the stakes, for fear of bad polling.

Of course, the person who bluffs every hand is just as bad at poker as the person who folds every hand. At the risk of being labeled an enabler of Democrats, achieving success in politics takes a more nuanced approach. Sometimes you have to swallow a bitter pill of compromise and sometimes you have to pick up your torch and pitchfork and let people know you mean business, and knowing which situation calls for which is everything as both a politican and an activist. A little historical perspective is often useful. Four decades ago a Republican President instituted mandatory wage and price controls across the country. Some Congressional and Presidential grousing about the salaries of Wall Street executives is not, in fact, the greatest assault on the free market that America has ever witnessed. On the other hand, the current financial instability, coupled with legitimate concerns about the government’s ability to pay its debts, are a novel thing in our time and ignoring them forever could well lead to catastrophe.

Today we face the reality that yesterday GOP Congressional leadership caved and kicked the budget can down the road for another three weeks without even extracting the end of funding for the execrable Planned Parenthood in the process. The reactions to this temporary measure, which seems like a minor captiulation in the grand scheme of all that is wrong with Congress (and the Republican party in particular), are more interesting and important than the substantive budgetary issue itself. While I am sure GOP leadership is pooh-poohing TEA Party anger, at the very least relative to the assumed backlash against a federal government  shutdown, I am quite certain that they have officially bought the last bandaid available in the store when it comes to this problem.

The simple fact is that, with control of the House, we have exactly one lever to pull, and that is the budget. Capitulating again on the budget and/or the debt ceiling will – all hyperbole aside – be the end of the Congressional GOP’s relevance for the rest of this year. And if the GOP gives it away for literally nothing merely to save themselves from the assumed consequences of a temporary shutdown, then they deserve to die in the field, having refused to choose a hill where they might have at least aided their cause and their country in the process.

This is the time and now is the fight.

No more continuing resolutions, without significant and painful concessions from the Democrats, like the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

No compromises on the promised cuts.

The time is now to stand our ground and fight.