McCain: Americans ‘don’t want compromise’

It’s safe to say Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) doesn’t have his finger on the pulse of public opinion.

The American people do not want Republicans to compromise on their opposition to any form of tax increase as part of a deficit reduction deal being negotiated with Democrats, veteran Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said Sunday.

“The principle of not raising taxes is something that we campaigned on last November and the results of the election was the American people don’t want their taxes raised and they wanted us to cut spending,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “They don’t want compromise.”

In every meaningful way, McCain’s assumptions are exactly backwards.

What the conservative senator seems to be arguing here is the notion of a mandate: Republicans campaigned against taxes, Republicans won, ergo Republicans can’t allow a compromise that imposes any tax increases on anyone ever. It’s an “elections have consequences” kind of approach.

And that’s not a bad pitch, if McCain were in any way correct about the details, but he’s not. For one thing, Americans elected a Democratic Senate. (McCain may have forgotten, but his caucus is still in the minority.) If voters left us with a Republican House and a Democratic Senate, how exactly does McCain perceive this as an anti-compromise electorate?

For another, the evidence is overwhelming that the American mainstream absolutely supports additional revenue as part of a larger debt-reduction deal.

I’m also fascinated by the notion that McCain suddenly believes mandates matter. Barack Obama sought the presidency promising to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year. If memory serves, he did pretty well when voters had their say. By McCain’s reasoning, doesn’t that mean the president should have his way, too?

But it’s the “they don’t want compromise” line that really stands out. From McCain’s bizarre perspective, Americans simply want Democrats to accept the Republicans’ unpopular agenda — all of it — and see no need for compromise between the parties.

It’s a reminder about the extent to which the parties are approaching this process very differently. Democrats believe it’s a negotiation, and both sides will make concessions to reach an equitable agreement. Republicans believe it’s a transaction, and Democrats must simply give the GOP what it demands.