Thursday, December 15, 2011

Political Blackmail

Imagine an enterprising blackmailer shaking down a woman, her identity concealed behind dark glasses, in the already dark recesses of an out-of-the-way roadhouse.  "It would be a pity," the blackmailer observes, "if the world found out how little you really care about your wedding vows.  It's going to cost you to keep that from happening."  Trouble is, the blackmailer's talking to Kim Kardashian.

This report from the Associated Press suggests that the blackmailer and today's Democrat Party have a lot in common:
"Democrats backed away from their demand for higher taxes on millionaires as part of legislation to extend Social Security tax cuts for most Americans on Wednesday as Congress struggled to clear critical year-end bills without triggering a partial government shutdown.
"But Republicans, frustrated that a bipartisan $1 trillion funding bill was being blocked by Senate Democrats, floated the possibility of repackaging the measure and passing it Friday in defiance of President Barack Obama and his allies in control of the Senate. Stopgap funding runs out Friday at midnight."

Just a week or so ago, Democrats were congratulating themselves for backing Republicans into a corner by tying an extension of the payroll tax cut to a surtax on millionaires.  Democrats figured that, if Republicans didn't swallow the whole package, their dirty little secret would be revealed to the voting public: viz., that Republicans really care as much or more about shielding millionaires than middle class families from tax increases.

Trouble is,  Republicans have never made a secret of that.  Indeed, they've been proclaiming it to anyone who would listen for the last 30 years.  They're pleased to have the chance to show the world that Democrats are the only ones intent on making the country  choose between tax relief for millionaires and the middle class.  As far as Republican are concerned, Democratic blackmailers were threatening to make them a campaign commercial.

Moreover, Democrats could learn a thing or two about blackmail from Republicans who knew what they were doing when they countered by tying an extension of the payroll tax holiday to the approval of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  It is a dirty little secret of the Democratic Party that the interests of environmentalists and the private sector working class frequently come into conflict, and that when they do, the Democratic Party nearly always sides with the environmentalists.

None of this means that the Republican pitch on taxes is a recipe for electoral success in 2012, or that the Democratic pitch is a recipe for failure.  On that score, only time will tell.  But the fact that the Democrats try keeping a lot more such secrets from voters than Republicans goes a long way toward explaining how the party that controls the White House and the Senate manages to lose so many of  these legislative skirmishes.

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