Friday, October 18, 2013

What Republicans mean when they talk about "compromise"

During the recent crisis over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling, Republicans complained repeatedly that Obama refused to "negotiate in good faith" and was unwilling to "compromise". What do Republicans mean by these terms "negotiate" and "compromise"? It's easy to get confused sometimes.

We can save the interpretive exegesis of "negotiate"—and "good faith"—for another occasion. (For a quick partial illustration, see Boehner's exchange with Stephanopoulos starting about 50 seconds into this video.  To start filling in the rest of the picture, you can also look in the dictionary under "blackmail", "extortion", "stonewall", and "swindle".)

With respect to what Republicans mean by the word "compromise", John Holbo (at Crooked Timber) usefully highlighted two clarifying formulations from earlier this month.

The first clarification comes from the right-wing blogger/pundit/activist Erick Erickson (firing up the troops on back on October 2):
Democrats keep talking about our refusal to compromise. They don’t realize our compromise is defunding Obamacare. We actually want to repeal it.

This is it. Our endgame is to leave the whole thing shut down until the President defunds Obamacare. And if he does not defund Obamacare, we leave the whole thing shut down.

After all, if the government is not spending any money, when we collide with the debt ceiling in two weeks, we should not have to worry since the government is spending so little money.  [....]
And the second comes from the enormously influential anti-tax fanatic Grover Norquist: (almost every current Republican member of the Senate and the House of Representatives has signed Norquist's Absolutely-No-New-Taxes pledge, and so did every candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination except John Huntsman):
The administration asking us to raise taxes is not an offer; that’s not a compromise. That’s just losing. I’m in favor of compromise. When we did the $2.5 trillion spending restraint in the BCA [JW: the Budget Control Act passed after the last Republican debt-ceiling extortion in 2011], we wanted $6 trillion. I considered myself very compromised. Overly reasonable.
All clear now?

—Jeff Weintraub

P.S.  For some previous efforts to explore and explicate the mysteries of Republican political vocabulary, see What US Republicans mean by "reform" and Jon Stewart on Republican "class warfare" in fantasy and reality.