We Are Witnessing a Destruction Test of P.T. Barnum’s Philosophy of Life

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So Republicans have settled on their messaging, and it’s this: Democrats are refusing to negotiate. We keep offering compromise after compromise, but Democrats won’t listen to any of them.

Will this work? The truth of a proposition has little or nothing to do with its pyschodynamics,1 so I suppose it has a chance. But it certainly shows a considerable contempt for the intelligence of the voting public. After six months of (a) refusing to meet with Senate Democrats to discuss the budget and (b) gleefully telling anyone who would listen that the shutdown and/or debt ceiling would be their ultimate leverage to force President Obama to agree to their laundry list of demands, you’d think it would be a hopeless task to pretend it was Democrats who wanted this fight all along. Add to that the fact that Democrats have already given in completely to Republican demands on spending levels, and you’d think it would be flatly impossible to pretend that Democrats were the ones refusing to negotiate.

But you never know. The fact that this is a cynical ploy doesn’t mean it won’t work. Ironically, given that Karl Rove is opposed to this strategy, it reminds me of his well-known—and frequently successful—tactic of turning an opponent’s strong points against him. Republicans are pretty universally known as the party of instransigent zealots, so let’s claim that it’s really Democrats who are the intransigent zealots! And we’ll do it by continually offering the same concession—i.e., nothing—in return for an ever-changing set of demands and pretending that this represents a sincere search for compromise. It’s so crazy it could work!

1Bonus points if you can name the fictional character who said this. No googling!

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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