When you enter into a negotiation, you have to understand your bottom line position. That's the line you won't cross to make a deal, no matter what. But, as important as understanding your own position is, you also have to know what the other side's bottom line is.
This is far trickier. But, a skilled negotiator gathers as much intelligence and information about his negotiating partners as he can, and makes educated and logical guesses about where they ultimately stand.
If you do this basic analysis for the whole Filibuster showdown taking place in the U.S. Senate right now, the OBVIOUS thing for the Democrats to do is to kill the filibuster on Presidential nominees, right now. Don't wait. Why? Because there is absolutely no realistic downside to that strategy. For my reasoning, take the jump.
The first thing you have to do here is to lay out the possible scenarios in the simplest and most reasonable terms possible. And, then, analyze what those scenarios mean. For the Senate filibuster they are:
1. The Senate Democrats bluff their way to another conformation deal, and don't kill the filibuster.
2. The Senate Democrats are bluffing about killing the filibuster, and the Republicans call it. Thus, Harry Reid and the Democrats will have to back down.
3. The Senate Democrats are not bluffing about killing the filibuster, but are using their willingness to kill it as a strong bargaining chip to convince the GOP to back down on the confirmations. And, the GOP does back down.
4. The Senate Democrats are nit bluffing about killing the filibuster, but the Republicans think they are bluffing, or have their own incentive to force the Democrats to kill it first.
Its almost exactly like a Prisoners Dilemma decision quadrant chart.
Looking at these options, you immediately see why killing the filibuster now is in the Democrats interests. And, that there is little downside to it.
First, the Republicans have now demonstrated, repeatedly, that they are willing to abuse whatever political norms were being followed for the past 50 years in order to achieve their political ends. They've shut down the government and threatened default on our national debt (to take two prominent examples). But, GOP Governors and Legislatures all over the country have also been assaulting union rights, women's rights and even the right to vote.
So, why should the filibuster be sacred, when these other things are not? It is clear that the filibuster only will continue to exist so long as the GOP believes it is in their interests to keep it. And, of course, when they are in the minority in the Senate and a Democrat is in the White House, they have a huge incentive to keep it.
But, what happens if they take back the Senate and/or the White House? Clearly, all bets are off. The GOP has now begun to "govern" as a pure rear-guard political party. They are, in their minds, losing the demographic battle and will pull out all the stops to slow down the inevitable.
So, of course the GOP will kill the filibuster as soon as they can do so.
Given that, the ONLY reason why Democrats should hesitate about killing the filibuster has been removed from the equation. The belief that if they don't do it, the Republicans will also refrain from doing it. That's obviously a delusional belief at this point (notwithstanding some intelligent speculation otherwise).
And, more to the point, the longer the Democrats wait to kill the filibuster, the more damage to the Obama administration and the Courts the GOP can do through obstruction. So, it is absolutely in the Democrats' interests to kill the filibuster NOW, pack the federal courts with as many Obama appointees as humanly possible (to create a counterbalance in the federal courts in case the GOP does manage to take back Congress and the White House), and gain as much advantage from the filibuster's elimination as possible, even it if only for a short term window.
The alternative is....doing nothing, watch the GOP grind all meaningful activity to a halt, leave huge voids in our federal courts for some future GOP President to fill, and then see the GOP kill the filibuster anyway.
The ideal scenario would be for the GOP to back down and stop using the filibuster. But, they said that the last time and went back on their deal. So, their word means nothing. There is nothing to ensure they won't do it again. So, pull the band-aid off that scab and kill the filibuster, dead. Kill it. It deserves to die. It's time.
10:37 AM PT: It just occurred to me, and I should have pointed this out in the diary earlier, that the Republicans have an incentive to keep using the filibuster, but con the Demovcrats into not using the nuclear option to kill it for as long as possible.
So, it is 100% in the interests of Senate Republicans to PRETEND that they want to save the filibuster, and that they would only kill it if the Democrats do it first. That way, they get the bets of both worlds. They get to keep on blocking Obama's agenda, and still preserve the filibuster while in the minority. But, if they ever gain control, they can kill it at their leisure.
So, this just reinforces my whole point: The Democrats are stupid not to kill the filibuster now and pack the Courts with Obama nominees.