What we learned from this fight (part 1/3)
Yesterday, with the total collapse of the Republicans' dangerous and reckless attempt to hold our nation hostage to their extremist agenda, we won an important battle. The Democratic leaders in Washington, DC finally stood up to Republican hostage-taking and it worked. This is a good thing.
But it is neither an absolute victory nor the last battle we'll have to fight on this front, so we thought it would be worthwhile to explain more of our thinking about where we are in the larger fight, and what that means for progressives in the coming months.
Congress passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling and re-open the government, averting a crisis that was entirely manufactured and completely avoidable. And what did the Republican extremists get that they wouldn't have gotten without their hostage-taking? Practically nothing in terms of substantive policy, plus a brutal drubbing in the court of public opinion.
While the bill that passed did not undo the economic pain the Republicans caused by shutting down the government, and while it extended the brutal sequester cuts that go even beyond Paul Ryan's heartless budget plan, this was a huge victory nonetheless.
Democrats proved that if they went toe-to-toe with Republicans and drew a line in the sand on important, popular and completely reasonable policies, they could prevail without conceding anything meaningful to the Republican hostage-takers.
This represents a significant change in tactics for Democratic leaders, who have time and time again caved to Republicans in similar situations since the Tea Party swung control of the House after the 2010 elections.President Obama set the stage for this win by saying he would not negotiate in order to get the Republicans to fulfill their basic responsibilities to fund the government and prevent a government default, and the president will certainly get a lot of well-deserved credit for that.
Yet those of us closely following the behind-the-scenes machinations inside the Washington, DC Beltway also know that this victory was made possible in large part because Senate Democrats under the leadership of Sen. Harry Reid played hardball and stayed unified in the face of the Republicans' outrageous ransom demands.
All through this fight everyone knew that it was highly unlikely that Democrats would agree to the Republicans' outrageous demands that Congress dismantle the president's signature health care law. The Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court, and then endorsed by voters who re-elected the president in an election where the health care reform was at the center of the debate.
But that said, there was no guarantee that the Republicans would lose this fight so thoroughly without anything to show for it. On the process issue of refusing to negotiate with Republican hostage-taking, this is a clear win for Democrats and for the American people.