The Republican Negotiating Strategy: I Really Don’t Care. Do You?

Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey have captured something important about Trump’s negotiating strategy.

He creates — or threatens to create — a calamity, and then insists he will address the problem only if his adversary capitulates to a separate demand.

Trump has described this approach as creating leverage and negotiating, but Democrats and other opponents have said it amounts to “hostage taking.”…

“It’s a Trumpian way of negotiating,” longtime friend Larry Kudlow told a radio interviewer last year before joining the White House. “You knock them in the teeth and get their attention. And then you kind of work out a deal.”

That might be the kind of negotiating tactic Trump employed during his business career and has now used as president. But it is not unlike the strategy congressional Republicans have adopted for the last decade.

Keep in mind that, at the height of the Great Recession when we were losing about 800,000 jobs a month, Mitch McConnell and Republican leaders adopted a strategy to obstruct anything President Obama and Democrats attempted to do to address the situation. They were willing to prolong the pain being suffered by the American public in order to avoid working with the opposition. In subsequent years, Republicans were willing to forgo raising the debt ceiling and risk a collapse of the entire global economy if Democrats didn’t cater to their attempts to gut federal spending on this country’s meager safety net.

Time and time again Republicans have demonstrated that they are willing to inflict harm on Americans to gain leverage in their power plays with the opposition. That is not something invented by Donald Trump – he is simply the current standard-bearer.

It was actually Melania Trump who gave us a clue as to the assumption that animates a strategy like that when she wore a jacket with this message: “I really don’t care. Do You?” In other words, what Americans should take from these tactics is that Trump and Republicans don’t care how their hostage-taking affects us, but they are banking on the fact that Democrats do. That is precisely how they’ve calculated that risking (or inflicting) harm on Americans provides them with leverage. They assume that eventually Democrats will give them what they want to stop them from doing so much damage.

Understanding this as the power play that Republicans have been employing for the last decade demonstrates that attempts to suggest that “both sides do it” simply empowers the hostage-taking and leads to further damage suffered by the American public. If pundits or politicians are determined to adopt a so-called “moderate” position in response to strategies like Trump’s government shutdown, E.J. Dionne provides them with a roadmap.

There is longing for “moderates” of one kind or another to come up with a solution to this crisis. Yet what’s more moderate than saying that everything related to border security should be on the table for negotiation, but in a considered, thoughtful way?…

Trump wants rational people to be so horrified at the damage he’s willing to inflict that they’ll cave in…Giving in to such behavior is not moderate, reasonable or sensible.

That is essentially the Democratic position on the shutdown: stop inflicting damage on federal workers and we can use the mechanisms given to us by our founders to govern.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.