STEREOTYPE ALERT: I hereby warn the reader that the observation in this post is based entirely on a stereotype. As a black man, I tend to dislike stereotypes but once in a while I find them instructive. My apologies in advance.
Rewind 32 years. The scene is a residence hall at Harvard University called Mather House. It is where I spent three of my four undergraduate years. The place is what I will call “the TV room”, a common area with a large screen TV mounted on the wall. About a dozen of us are assembled, paying attention in varying degrees to what is being broadcast. A nerdy white kid stands up and approaches the TV and says “can I change the channel?” After a second or two of silence, a very serious young black student glares at the kid and simply says “NO!”. The attempted channel changer sheepishly sits back down and the room stops cold with an uncomfortable silence. The decision has been made definitively. No discussion, no debate. I chuckled to myself about it at the time and still do to this day. Typical of most liberal arts colleges, everything was up for debate and the more lengthy the debate, on any subject no matter how trivial, the better. It was a by-product of being “intellectual”. And my brotha was having none of it. It exemplified for me a difference between blacks and WASPs in particular that the former preferred to get down to basics while the latter preferred debate and back-and-forth.
Fast forward to 2013 and the government shut down (and debt ceiling) crisis. After Republicans tried to tie the end of Obamacare as we know it to a continuing resolution to fund the government and keep it running, Democrats in the Senate essentially said “oh no you didn’t!” A loyal reader of this blog posted an excerpt of a story stating that the “no negotiation” strategy, while being mouthed by Obama, is really being enforced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In fact, according to this source, Democrats want Obama as far from the bargaining table as possible for fear of the concessions he might make. So Harry has taken control and he has not budged an inch.
Republicans have succeeded in making him look a wee bit reprehensible when he won’t even allow a vote on small resolutions that would fund the government piecemeal but at least offer some relief to those currently suffering. But Harry has been a rock. Perhaps a comparison to Israel is better than my white/black dichotomy? Israel refuses to negotiate with hostage takers and their basic stance is “kill them and then we will retaliate but we’re not cutting any deals with you.” Harry simply will not forgive the GOP for their Obamacare stunt and even though there is no longer talk of defunding Obamacare right now, it was this original stunt that poisoned any possibility for deal making. Reid is basically saying, “you came to play like a thug and that is how I am going to treat you.”
To further my original analogy, let’s not forget that Obama spent most of his youth among intellectuals, whether at prep school or Ivy League institutions. Obama has virtually no “street” in him at all. Reid on the other hand was raised by a laundress for a brothel and was an amateur boxer. The quiet demeanor hides an approach much more suited to the street than to the Senate.
As I think back to 32 years ago, all I can say is when Senator Ted Cruz and the merry band of lunatics he inspired in the House asked “can I change the channel?’, Harry Reid glared at them and decisively said “NO!”