Politics Is Negotiation: Five Ways Democrats Win In 2018 And Beyond
I’m an unabashed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton supporter. I support comprehensive free trade including both NAFTA and TPP. I believe that immigration should virtually be unfettered and not limited to “make things easier for Americans”. Finally, I am certainly not opposed to investment from businesses and the wealthy to obtain my goals. Conversely, I’m opposed to the behavior, political strategy, and rhetoric of the Bernie Sanders “revolution” who believes in the exact opposite of these things and will “burn it down” to reach them.
I have no beef with Bernie Sanders though. In researching him, I realized that he’s just a politician as opposed to the soothsayer his followers make him out to be. Hence, his run for President as a Democrat giving him access to an actual fundraising and media apparatus in spite of the fact that he believes the party is ideologically bankrupt comes as no surprise to me. Principles seem to be flexible for many when it comes to getting what we want. This is politics in a nutshell.
Politics Is Negotiation
Negotiation, on its surface, requires us to ask for more in order to settle for what we really want. The problem is that the other party is trying to do the same thing. Meeting in the middle or not meeting at all is generally what happens in our system which is essentially a compilation of negotiations.
From my perspective, the mistakes Bernie’s revolutionaries make in this negotiation is based upon not wanting to feel taken advantage of (ACA sucks because it’s not single payer), advocating for beliefs aggressively to “win” even if it means allying with questionable groups to do so (there is no difference between Trump and Hillary but she must be stopped at all costs because she sets the left back), and finally not understanding how to get help from people you need though you have no direct authority over (I’m not a Democrat, but I want to have a say in how the Democratic Party conducts its business). Politics, like any other negotiation with parties you have an ongoing relationship with, is ultimately best with a win-win scenario. This means finding a solution suitable to both parties that leaves both parties feeling like they have won in some way. This is how you keep good working relationships after a negotiation. Afterall, Congress (where laws are made though rendered impotent by the executive due to his own idiocy) is just a job. They have to see each other daily. They work better when they get along. Histrionics and displays of emotion (Berniebros) are not only manipulative but undermine the rational basis of negotiation.
This isn’t to say emotions aren’t important in a negotiation for people’s needs ultimately have to be met. There’s a proper time and place to discuss emotions in order to achieve something that is both satisfactory and long term, but emotional pleas in crafting policy are often ineffective which is why it is best to be as detached as possible when it comes to your own emotions on issues. Politics is not about you. It’s about a vast coalition of people who have different intensity levels on different issues. Those believing in the revolution have a lack of understanding that their views are not the only views within a political party.
Politicians are not about good negotiation. They sell voters on negotiation being win-lose scenarios where you get all or nothing. They convince people that you have to play hardball in order not only to win but to have the other party lose which is just as important. Conversely, gamesmanship is not often touted but often used to gain an advantage politically. This is what hurt both Hillary and the party with the Wikileaks revelation not seen as political strategy but as tricks and manipulation, part of the Clinton brand fairly or not. Ultimately, hardball and gamesmanship are just politicians talking. Politics involves people in regular frequent relationships. There won’t be too much one-upping or dominating happening long term.
The adherents to Bernie’s revolution need to do a better job of trying to understand what the other side wants in order to ultimately get what they want. Tradeoffs in politics are essential. You have to identify what you’re comfortable giving away. Nothing is generally not a sufficient answer.
They also need to do a better job of understanding the alternatives if they don’t get what they want. While I favor moving left, the good and bad of the alternatives if we can’t need to be weighed. How important is the issue? If we get ACA (universal healthcare) instead of single payer, is that good or bad when thinking about what we had before? If we don’t get a deal done, will it cut us out of future opportunities? What are the alternatives for the other side?
Ultimately, politics is about relationships. Particularly, establishing a history and understanding how to proceed based upon that as well as any sudden or hidden issues that may arrive. Good politics is shaping people’s expectations based upon past outcomes and established precedents. “Yes We Can” is a popular campaign slogan, “This can and has been done” is the politics of good governance behind that slogan. Shooting for the moon and then being upset when you don’t get it is bad politics because it was a bad gamble to start off with.
Like all relationships, power dynamics is also key and Bernie’s revolution seems to have little understanding of them. The Democratic Party has the power in the relationship they want to fix or mend. They control the resources. It’s Bernie’s revolution that stands to lose the most if they can’t reach an agreement with the party and only the party that has the power to deliver what it is that they hope for which is a more progressive government. It makes no sense to recognize the vessel you need to obtain power, but then denigrate and humiliate it while using it.
The Left Needs To Compromise
Obama/Clinton acolytes such as myself and Bernie’s revolutionaries need to carefully explore our own positions along with the other side’s positions to come to a mutually acceptable compromise that gives us all as much as we want as possible. We are not as fundamentally opposed as we appear, and each side’s goals may be different from what they initially appear to be.
Ideally, we are willing to trade with each other. If not, one side can be compensated for giving something away depending upon many factors though. However, what is the best you can do if the other party refuses to negotiate with you? The Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) must be explicitly identified. Admittedly, this is easier for party regulars (vote Democrat). For the revolution, this can be much more difficult (start your own party). Unfortunately, if there is no identified BATNA, there may be too many concessions or missed opportunities due to being too rigid in your position.
Ultimately, people are more influenced by how they feel about you than what you say. The content of the message is only as good as the people communicating it. This is why as Democrats we must ask ourselves why. Why do we have this position on issues? Is this really our position or do we have another desire that can be satisfied in some other manner?
There are 505 days left to the 2018 elections. That should be more than enough time for both sides to finish whining about 2016. Here’s 5 ways Democrats can win in 2018 and beyond in the meantime:
You gotta have one that is simple and easy to understand. As a Hillary supporter, we didn’t have one. It wasn’t enough that we understood her message. It had to be easily transferrable to the masses. “Obama’s third term” worked for me, but is not unique or individual enough to work. Bernie blamed billionaires and millionaires, Trump wanted to Make America Great Again which is meaningless but still effective. Even 2020 darkhorse Mark Zuckerberg has a message with universal basic income. The message must be simple and persuasive to a self-interested allegiance of a very large and coherent body of voters.
“Stans” are more important than supporters. A stan is a wild enthusiast, an off-the-charts believer. The term was popularized by the Eminem song where a fan continues to write him letters, doesn’t receive a response, and is so distraught he kills himself at the end of the song. While crowds are not indicative of electoral success, they do matter. This is a mistake that many of us Clinton supporters made in 2016 in dismissing Bernie’s rabid supporters.
3) The Younguns
We must highlight the many issues in which the status quo is seen to serve the old. This again is where Bernie had it right and us Clinton supporters had it wrong. We need the young building apps and websites to engage more youth. The young tend to push where the rest of society does not. This is how change happens.
All progressive parties pin a lot of their hopes on the people who traditionally don’t turn up. We need minority turnout to be at Obama levels, not before nor after and especially so during midterms. This means focusing on and eliminating voter suppression techniques, and getting out the vote.
5) The Internet
Not only is it the best way to raise money (thanks again Bernie), but it is the best way to keep the young engaged. Tactical voting finding online organization turns it into tactical campaigning.
2018 and beyond will be about the power of the swarm. That is people in huge numbers voting in ways no one thought they would.
This is why lamenting about how the party lost so many seats and governorships in the last 8 years is misguided. The Democratic Party never wins anything and never has is the prevailing narrative. Of course, when you remind people that in 2009, we had the House, the Oval Office and a supermajority in the Senate and that in the last 40 years only the Democrats have achieved a supermajority in the Senate (three times, no less), they don’t want to discuss that. It ruins the “Dems are hopeless” narrative. We are not, and we can win if we do these things.