Jim Hacker: I’ve been talking to Eric and Duncan. I think I promised to support Eric’s candidature. [for prime minister]
Bernard: I see.
Jim Hacker: Then I think I promised to support Duncan’s.
Bernard: Well that seems rather even handed Minister
Jim Hacker: The problem is I can’t keep my promise to both, Sherry?
Bernard: Well they were only political promises, weren’t they?
Jim Hacker: Yes [pause] What do you mean?
Bernard: I mean Like your manifesto promises people understand.
Yes Minister Party Games 1984
Mr Scott: Do you mind a little advice? Starfleet captains are like children. They want everything right now and they want it their way, but the secret is to give them only what they need, not what they want.
Star Trek TNG Relics 1992
There is a famous scene in the Spencer Tracy film the Last Hurrah that illustrates one part of the political equation that always comes into play for pols but doesn’t really get a lot of press it deserves.
In the scene Tracy notes to his nephew that he promised two different groups a statue in a park however as they wanted different people on the statue there was no way possible to please them both so he tells his nephew his plan to make the statue one of Mother Cabrini which would not only appeal to the members of both groups but that neither could oppose.
And that is part of the great secret of how politics works.
In the old days before TV and before the internet of course it was much easier you could send your surrogates to different parts of the country and promise completely different things and nobody would call you on it as long as you gave them a job. Today of course it’s quite different, every single pronouncement made by any candidate and/or is surrogate on any platform from twitter to a supposedly “private” event get in the hands of the general public.
Even so the temptation to make a promise that one can’t keep is great when there is a voter in front of you to please, not all can resist it but it’s not just a problem of what a candidate does it’s what a person perceives.
We have for example seen republicans promise for five years to repeal Obmamcare, to stop the president’s agenda etc etc etc but are unable to deliver, it’s been a classic case of overpromising.
Without a republican president or a 2/3 majority in both houses there is no possibility to repeal obamacare, zip zero nada.
However that doesn’t mean things can’t be done, the power of the purse gives leverage and the willingness to use this leverage to make a fight:
But House and Senate appropriators will need to pass an omnibus spending bill to prevent a government shutdown by Dec. 11. That’s when a stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution, is set to expire.
Obama and Democrats are insisting on a clean spending bill, free of controversial policy riders or “poison pills.” But conservatives will be pressing their GOP leaders to attach a slew of amendments, including one to defund Planned Parenthood.
And this is where the golden rule of politics comes in.
If Paul Ryan promised to provide a bill that defunds planned parenthood, defunds obamacare etc etc etc aloud he would be making two mistakes.
He’s be giving the democrats a specific target
He’d be setting expectation beyond his ability to deliver.
But by being vague, by allowing amendments and riders as normal and then letting the Senate pass their own version he sets up the normal give and take that comes with a bill getting part of what he and the base wants while not putting the Democrats in a position where they have an incentive to drop the bomb.
By this method it is possible to keep the ball moving and that’s what we really need, keep moving the ball. We may WANT democrats totally defeated and demoralized, but what we really need is move forward rational policies so conservatism on spending becomes the new norm.
of course if that fails for Speaker Ryan there is plan B
I’d send Obama a lot of separate spending bills, and put the riders on legislation that his constituents need to pass. Go ahead, veto welfare spending or Department of Education funding. Make my day!
And remember these are spending bills, we can use reconciliation to get them to the President’s desk.