We all know that Donald Trump neither wrote “The Art of the Deal” nor has much of an idea about how to really negotiate. He may know how to bully, but that won’t work when dealing with strong Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
In the current government shutdown standoff, Pelosi seems to be taking the position that Trump and other Republicans must fully concede, and then the Democrats will join Trump and others on negotiations about a “wall” and other immigration-related issues.
Democrats have traditionally been willing to negotiate, recognizing that to gain something you have to give something. You may not want to give anything away, but it is generally the price of reaching an agreement. In the case of negotiating with Donald Trump, it’s possible that they would have to give very little because (a) he is rarely locked into positions, and (b) he is becoming more and more desperate as his popularity falls, now down to 40% and sliding precipitously.
It can be very difficult to make Donald Trump look good to reasonable people, but Nancy Pelosi may be trying to do so. If she portrays the Democrats as the party of intransigence and inflexibility, she is giving Trump a gift that he neither deserves nor could ever earn. Rather than locking herself in a position of “no negotiations until ….,” she could offer something to Trump, just to put negotiations in motion. Suppose that she offered the following:
- Two billion dollars for a wall, with the proviso that it be made entirely out of recyclable materials.
- An Immediate re-opening of all government agencies, based on bills passed by the House in 2019 and the Senate in 2018.
- An agreement to work on comprehensive immigration reform in 2019, with commitments by Senate Majority Leader and Pelosi to permit up-or-down votes in their respective chambers on all provisions of the proposed changes.
Trump may not agree to this, but he would be put on the defensive and it would clearly give her the high ground. He has a weak position to defend and that might wear and tear on him. If he doesn’t budge, what is the big deal of Pelosi changes her sweetener from two billion to three billion, and in return she gets something meaningful in return such as a start to an infrastructure deal.
There are many directions in which to go, but Pelosi is making it seems as though she is locked into only one. She is far wise and savvier than I am about the internal politics of Congress, but that does not mean that she can’t have a brain cramp at a particular moment.
Here’s hoping that she gives peace, er negotiations, a chance.