Republicans want these [entitlement] cuts, but more than that, they want Democrats to own them. If anyone thinks that a "bipartisan" agreement that results in benefits cuts to those programs won't hold the starring role in Republican campaigns for the next umpteen elections, then they haven't been paying attention. Remember the "$716 billion in Medicare cuts" that dominated the 2010 and 2012 campaigns? That those cuts had absolutely nothing to do with benefits didn't stop them. And it worked in 2010.It also worked in 2012, as the Democratic advantage on health care issues (9 percent) remained unchanged between the two years, and well below the 32-point advantage Democrats enjoyed before Republicans began to demonize Democrats on the issue:
In fact, President Barack Obama's biggest failure in 2012 was the inability to win the senior vote despite running against Medicare's top foe in Congress, losing that co-hort 56-44 to Mitt Romney. Indeed, asked who would handle Medicare better, exit poll respondents picked Obama by a measly 52-44 against a group of people hellbent on destroying Medicare!
And the way they did it, as Joan says, was by muddying the waters with their claims that Democrats had cut $700+ billion from Medicare. The party whose entire governing philosophy is cut taxes and government programs, portrayed themselves, over two cycles, as the party that was going to protect government programs. And it worked in 2010, and likely helped them keep control of the House in 2012.
So watch as Mitch McConnell and John Boehner and that merry band of economic terrorists refuse to name specific cuts, hoping Obama reprises his schtick from a few weeks ago offering up chained CPI for Social Security and heavens knows what else in his obsessive pursuit of his deal. Because while he thinks he's being reasonable by offering up what Republicans want, Republicans will turn around and club Democrats over the head with those cuts in 2014 and beyond.
As I wrote a short while ago, they can do that because they're psychopaths. Obama and the Democrats can't fall into that trap again. It's not a hard trap to avoid! Just stare at Republicans until they're forced to make concrete demands. So if you end up having to make one or two difficult concessions, at least make sure America knows who demanded them.