So, um, what's the deal with the Senate healthcare bill? Nobody knows. Seriously, nobody knows. Activists are pissed, Democrats are pissed, journalists are pissed, even a lot of Republicans are pissed. But, Republicans are doing this strategically, and it is smart. Negotiation is difficult.
One of the books I regularly assign is John Gilmour's Strategic Disagreement, which deals with the problem of negotiations breaking down because if one side thinks that maintaining the status quo gives them an electoral advantage that will eventually turn into total victory, then why compromise? Good book.
Gilmour was really talking about inter-party disagreement, and right now, what's going on is intra-party disagreement. That is important to understand because it isn't really the same thing. The hardliner faction of the GOP is fighting with the semi-moderate faction over just how much of Obamacare to repeal, and how quickly. Within that is a conflict that plays out in Republican primaries based more on threats than actual wins and losses. It isn't quite the same thing as policy disagreements between Dems and the GOP combined with general election wins and losses which are actual wins and losses. I could write a long treatise on the differences, but it's early on a Saturday morning, and... I don't wanna. My coffee will run out. I want to talk about something else, and who's gonna stop me?
One of the trickier chapters in Gilmour's book, and one that rarely gets tested in any systematic way, is the idea that you can sometimes get around the incentives for negotiations to break down by having the negotiations happen in secret. The problem is that the process of negotiation is hard, and involves a lot of back-and-forth. If any given offer is subject, not just to the negotiation process, but to public scrutiny before the process is complete, the whole thing is doomed from the get-go. If I have to consider making some minor concession mid-way through the process, and some fucking asshole leaks that I'm making it to the public, and they don't see me get anything for it because the process is still on-going, I'm fucked. See the problem? So, Gilmour says, you need private negotiations to get around the challenges of strategic disagreement. I don't remember him using terms like "fucking asshole," though. For that, you gotta come here to The Unmutual Political Blog-- home of serious academic citations, and all the words they won't let me use when I publish with a university press.
Anyway... the Republican Party really has no idea how to handle internal disagreements and backbiting over Obamacare. Solution? Negotiate in private. You don't talk until after the deal has been reached.
On the other hand, consider someone who doesn't know when to shut his pie hole-- do I have to type his name?
Ask any lawyer for advice on what to do when you are the subject of any legal inquiry. Any lawyer with a tiny fraction of a brain will tell you the following: keep your stupid, fucking mouth shut. Typing and tapping fingers too.
Here's some bonus music for the day.