Ditch the Coup-Counting

For once I find myself in agreement with E. J. Dionne:

Do Republicans really want to be known as a purely negative party? The GOP’s establishment was pleased that it again beat back the tea party with Sen. Pat Roberts’s victory in Tuesday’s Kansas primary. Might this not give the party a little more room to work with Democrats on something?

That’s where the plain vanilla agenda comes in. Yes, the label risks dooming the enterprise. The phrase comes from President Obama — last week, he scolded House Republicans for blocking “even basic, common-sense, plain vanilla legislation” — and many conservatives presume anything associated with Obama is toxic.

Still, it’s an instructive concept to encourage a search for policy ideas that ought not to be terribly controversial. To construct such an agenda, I sat down this week with Heather Boushey and Elisabeth Jacobs of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. We put together two lists. The as-plain-as-possible-vanilla list included proposals that already have a lot of Republican support. The ought-to-be-plain-vanilla ideas either once won GOP backing or should have appeal, given other things to which conservatives are committed.

On the first list: extending the earned-income tax credit (EITC) for single, childless people; a refundable child tax credit; and a big infrastructure bill, perhaps including an infrastructure bank.


And here’s the ought-to-be-plainvanilla list: a minimum-wage increase (many Republicans used to vote for it); pre-kindergarten expansion (many of the most ambitious pre-K programs are in Republican-led states such as Oklahoma and Georgia); paid family leave (financed as an insurance program so employers don’t carry the whole load); and the right not to be fired just for requesting a flexible work schedule.

There ought to be more areas of agreement between the two parties and there should be areas in which they would agree to work together for the good of all of us. To do that there would need to be an end to “poison pills”, comprehensive or omnibus legislation in which unacceptable aspects are intermingled with things that should be acceptable to both parties, a general swallowing of their pride on the part of the Republicans, and a general abandoning of the rejectionist stance they’ve held for the last six year.

Since I don’t believe that any of those things will happen, regardless of the outcome in November the next two years are likely to bring more of the same.

6 comments… add one
  • ...

    So, Dionne thinks that Republicans should be encouraging more single mother led households (who overwhelmingly vote Democratic) and should support building more bridges over the Mississippi with money from unknown sources. Plus, more interference by the federal government in the basic process of hiring and paying workers.

    I don’t give a damn about the Republicans, but these ideas look more like something a liberal would want to increase the size and scope of the federal government and the destruction of families in order to promote the Democratic party, rather than a concern for the well being of either the Republican party or the country.

    I also don’t recall concern about the negativity of the Democratic party back in 2004-2006, when they were openly fantasizing (to the point of encouraging) the assassination of a Republican president.

    Oh well, I’m sure that Dionne, just like every other rich Democrat, has the best interests of the people who count at heart. You know, the Buffets and Soroses and Slims of the world.

  • CStanley

    The concept is fine, but it’s funny that all of his suggestions for areas of easy compromise involve Republicans crossing the aisle from their core ideology, with the rationale being that Republicans used to be comfortable doing that on these issues.

    Nothing about finding common ground on border control, or tax reform, regulatory reform, relief or programs for small businesses, better oversight of bureaucracies, etc.

    And no internal awareness of why the GOP today is less likely to engage in legislative initiatives that involve federal overreach in domestic policy. Just taking one example, consider what has happened when the GOP crossed over- policies like NCLB. The policy is a disaster and now the GOP owns that. So why would they, why should they, repeat such episodes? They shouldn’t, because it’s bad policy and bad politics for the party.

    Or take a different kind of example- Romneycare. Even though there was a significant difference ideologically because this was a state program instead of federal, the Democrats have unceasingly used this as a cudgel by ignoring that important point.

    If Democrats want to look for areas where there is true common ground, they need to stop falsely claiming that their own territory is where those compromises need to occur.

  • steve

    As part of a project, I have been meeting with some of our state legislators. Almost all Republicans. They complain about the faction within their own party that is committed to the idea of no compromise. They understand the idea that getting 80% of what you want is better than nothing when you are the majority. That getting 20% is better than nothing when you are the minority.

    Immigration reform could have already happened but for the rule that in the House you need to have enough of its ruling party agree so you can pass a bill. There are already enough, it appears, total House members willing to vote for bills already written. Tax reform is also possible, but the right wants to start with no new revenues as a precondition. That should be negotiable like everything else.


  • finding common ground on border control, or tax reform, regulatory reform, relief or programs for small businesses, better oversight of bureaucracies, etc.

    Well, yes. For me that comes under the heading of “every post can’t be about everything”.

  • CStanley

    No, the post doesn’t have to be about everything. However, if the post is about a desire for bipartisan collaboration on issues where there is common ground, it undermines that goal if the only issues described are the ones that Democrats would like to see happen.

  • Immigration reform could have already happened but for the rule that in the House you need to have enough of its ruling party agree so you can pass a bill.

    It’s a rule of thumb rather than an actual rule–a way of insuring that a Speaker holds on to his or her job.

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