The magic word, compromise, has been missing from the Republican vocabulary since President Bill Clinton took office. Clinton’s 1993 economic plan, which set the stage for not only a balanced budget but also large surpluses, passed with nary a Republican vote.

Instead, it was the Democrats who kept compromising on the budget and the economy.

President George W. Bush’s budget-busting tax cuts, unfunded wars and prescription-drug benefits all passed because enough Democrats supported them.

Then, recent history. President Barack Obama took office amid the still-falling rubble from the Republicans’ reign. His economic stabilization and recovery plan passed with three Republican votes. His health-care plan passed with no Republican support, and soon the most powerful elected Republican in the country, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, was dedicating his party not to compromise but to all-out obstruction to destroy Obama’s presidency and chance of re-election.

During the desperate budget negotiations of 2011, when Republicans used the debt ceiling as a club, which ended up beating the country’s credit rating down a notch, Obama signaled a willingness to accept a grand bargain with significant entitlement cuts.

But tea party Republicans wanted no part of any deal with Obama, especially one that included any new revenue.


So this history, this pattern of Republican obstinate partisanship and Democratic compromise, is an important lens through which to view the current Democratic mind-set.

Democrats, with good reason, believe it is time Republicans did the bending.

For some, this is a matter of policy; many believe that the Republican obsession with austerity is misguided at this moment of economic fragility and point to the Republicans’ favorite example of Europe and Britain and draw a very different conclusion: Austerity can make things worse if the brakes are applied at the wrong time.

Other Democrats are just sick and tired of being played by Republicans.

Carter Eskew is a co-host of The Insiders blog, offering commentary from a Democratic perspective and was the chief strategist for the Gore 2000 presidential campaign. This column was distributed by The Washington Post, where it first appeared.

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