More On Progressive Bargaining: Risk And Reward
Those, like me, who consider the even the "compromise" bill to be a reasonably important and impressive accomplishment will usually conclude that liberal constituencies did about all that they could reasonably do. But those who are dissatisfied with the outcome are likewise dissatisfied with the tactics.
This seems the incorrect metric to me. The metric should not be whether Nate Silver is satisfied with the bill, but rather how much of what progressives wanted ended up in the bill because of their bargaining. In my view the progressives accomplished almost nothing in their bargaining. And, in fact, it appears Silver agrees with me:
What happens, for instance, if we reduce the flexibility variable for the Progressive Democrats in Congress? That is, we make them more intransigent and demanding, as many bloggers suggested that they should have been? It turns out that nothing happens; the outcome of the negotiation is still a 52. Nor is there much change if we make the progressive position more flexible; the model comes up with a score of 53. (We can increase the score slightly if we make the progressives more influential -- to a score of about 56. But influence is not easily obtained and should probably be regarded as exogenous to the model.)
Set aside for a moment the rather inane contraption Silver uses for predicting bargaining outcomes, his conclusion is that progressive bargaining failed. Silver asserts that this failure was inevitable and progressive efforts were completely futile and a waste of time, but he nonetheless reaches the conclusion that the efforts were a failure.
Was the failure inevitable? In my view, no. But Silver sees it as inevitable because he can not imagine a world where progressives exercise veto power. Silver writes:
Note that this is a very complex negotiation. At least five different parties effectively have veto power over the process, including the White House, the Blue Dogs (who cast the decisive votes in both chambers of Congress), and both the Floor and Committee Leadership.
(Emphasis supplied.) And there you have the progressive failure in political bargaining in a nutshell - no one EVER believed that progressive had veto power, or more accurately, no one ever believed progressives would ever EXERCISE veto power. That the progressives would be rolled was a given. Obviously that was an accurate view of the reality.
But that of course is my point:
The question was how to bargain with the people who wanted a bill passed (the White House) to maximize your bargaining position. Unfortunately, that required being willing to do something progressives simply were not willing to do - create the real possibility that no bill would be passed because of their opposition. Without that commitment, the progressives were sure to be the first rolled. And they were.
Silver can not imagine a progressive bargaining position that threatened the passage of the health bills. No one could imagine it, even progressives. Until they can not only imagine it, but in fact project it in a political negotiation, progressives will remain irrelevant outside of Democratic primaries, when they will receive a plethora of campaign promises sure to be abandoned by pols. Cuz that is what pols do.
I think there is actually a counter example that anyone interested in bargaining can look to for a better result - the unions and the excise tax. The unions were willing to "kill the bill" unless they received major concession on the excise tax issue. the White House wanted an excuse tax and serious and tough negotiations ensued, with the unions gaining major concessions.
The only reason why the unions were able to garner those concessions was because they were willing to, and were perceived as willing to, "kill the bill." They knew Obama wanted this health bill more than they did and that Obama would find a way to accommodate the unions' concerns on the excise tax.
The unions took the risk of killing the bill and were rewarded with major concessions on their key issue. That is how bargaining works.
Speaking for me only
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