Making Deals With Trump: What Compromise?

We should take our own advice, embrace functionality and compromise, take some losses with the victories, and let Chuck and Nancy do the deals with Trump.
09/22/2017 08:16 am ET Updated Sep 22, 2017

The gush of left enthusiasm for President Trump’s doing deals with Democrats has finally and properly subsided. It’s not that Trump has pulled back. It’s that folks are beginning to grasp what the word “deal” means.

“Deal: An agreement entered into by two or more parties for their mutual benefit, especially in a business or political context.”

There’s the rub: “mutual benefit.” In other words if you do a deal with Trump, he has to benefit from it. Another word for it is “compromise.”

“Compromise: An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.”

Concessions? To Trump? Yikes.

The hesitation by Democrats comes after months of pummeling the Republicans for intransigence and unwillingness to compromise, an accurate and fair criticism. The insistence on achieving every jot and tittle was an unpleasant attribute of the Republican House, the Freedom Caucus and the Tea Party and Ted Cruz. American democracy can’t function without compromise. True enough.

Now Trump, the self-proclaimed dealmaker extraordinaire, turns to Chuck and Nancy with enticing offers. Time to step up to the plate.

The august editorialists at the New York Times, among others, embraced the moment. It loudly proposed more “deals,” on Obamacare, flood insurance, Dreamers, infrastructure and tax reform. Problem was, the “deals” they proposed were the Trump embrace of Democratic positions. Not much in it for the Donald. And that is not what he or the dictionary means by “deals.” He’s gotta get something for his team.

It is at best unclear whether the Democratic base is willing to accept compromise any more than the Republican base. It is at best unclear whether intransigence is as prevalent on the left as on the right. This leaves Chuck and Nancy with big problems. What can they give to Trump without causing revolution?

There are some things that would seem to be beyond compromise: the Wall, as a trade for the Dream Act? Probably a wall too far. Repeal of the Obamacare exchanges as a trade for Medicaid expansion? Also beyond reach, probably.

There’s plenty of room remaining, and Chuck and Nancy are skilled at the art of the deal, and Members of Congress also understand compromise. But there’s going to be a moment of truth, where even small concessions to Trump will face withering criticism from elements of the left coalition.

In fact, our democracy is built to require compromise as a condition of progress. I spent over 20 years in the New York Legislature swallowing hard when budgets were proposed, or laws amended, often voting reluctantly to take a single step forward when more was needed. Most such votes (not all of them) proved to be wise choices and explainable to voters.

Progressives are now nearing the moment of decision. We should take our own advice, embrace functionality and compromise, take some losses with the victories, and let Chuck and Nancy do the deals with Trump. It won’t be easy, or pleasurable to the base. But the country requires it.

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