Republican Strategy: “When you’re playing with house money, it makes sense to go all in on every hand.”
David Atkins succinctly nails the situation we face:
No matter what Obama does, Republicans won’t care and won’t fold
…This is what makes the poker analogy so often used to criticize the President’s negotiating tactics such a weak metaphor. Obama is often said to be the worst poker player in history, consistently bluffing then folding. But the problem with that analogy is that Republican House members aren’t playing with their own chips: they’re playing with the country’s. The Republican electoral chips are stashed safely in gerrymandered hands, and any losses over fiscal cliffs or debt ceilings only hurt the President and the nation’s perception of government. There’s no downside for the GOP in bluffing every time in the hopes that the President will fold. Why not? When you’re playing with house money, it makes sense to go all in on every hand.
When you’re playing chicken and your opponent has thrown their steering wheel out the window, the only alternative to losing is to do likewise. Obama is justifiably reluctant to do so, because he actually cares about America and the rest of the world, and is unwilling to destroy them for electoral advantage.
For the gritty details of Republican gerrymandering and Democratic-voter disenfranchisement, see Sam Wang here and here.
The Republicans have gerrymandered a structural advantage that lets them play poker using other people’s chips. So the only only real solutions are structural and long-term. Atkins again:
The advantage Democrats have in this situation is that majority public opinion and the majority of actual American voters are on their side. The only thing that allows Republicans to take their hostages in the first place is a series of arcane rules that give the minority undue influence. Among those rules are:
- Gerrymandered Congressional districts
- Dysfunctional filibuster rules
- Disproportionate Senate representation
- Corrupt lobbying laws
- Campaign finance laws that give outsized political influence to a few billionaires
- Archaic electoral college rules
- Discriminatory workday elections
And that’s just a start. If we want a future in which we do more than simply determine which hostages to save and which ones to shoot, the American People will need to figure out how to make these and other reforms to our broken political system that disempowers rational majorities in favor of extremist ideological minorities with nothing to lose. As the Republicans continue to suffer demographic decline, their base will only become more desperate and extreme.