Peter Lemiska
Negotiating 101: A primer for Democrats
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By Peter Lemiska
January 24, 2019

As the longest government shutdown in history slogs along with no end in sight, each side tries to blame the other for the stalemate. Polls suggest Democrats are winning that battle, and most Americans hold President Trump responsible for the shutdown. That may be due to his bold, but intemperate remark during that meeting with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. It may be because the liberal press joins the Democrats in propagating that narrative. Or it could just stem from our tendency to hold the person at the top responsible when things go wrong.

Perception aside, a more objective look shows a different picture.

It turns out that even the president can't compel federal employees to work without pay. That's where the budget and Congress comes in. This impasse – Congressional Democrats' refusal to pass a budget that accommodates Trump's demand for a border wall – suggests that both sides are equally responsible for the shutdown.

Still, while Trump has made several overtures to the Democrats, Pelosi and Schumer have been unwilling to give an inch, steadfastly refusing to consider any funding for the wall. A negotiated compromise seems to be the best solution, even though Pelosi's concept of negotiation seems to be: "Give me what I want, and then we'll talk."

So these five basic rules of negotiation are offered for the benefit of Senator Pelosi:

1. You have to first come to the bargaining table.

Your constituents might believe those jaunts to Hawaii and Puerto Rico, and that truncated trip to Brussels were really intended to ease the pain you claim to share with those furloughed federal workers. But, as President Trump strongly suggested, the best way to help those workers is to remain in Washington and negotiate a budget.

2. Know what you want

Successful negotiation requires clear goals. Not that long ago, you firmly opposed illegal immigration. In 2009, Chuck Schumer announced that illegal immigration was wrong, "plain and simple." Then, during the 2018 campaign, you were all beating your breasts for illegal aliens, wailing about building bridges, not walls. Now, once again you claim to oppose illegal immigration, while, at the same time encouraging it with tantalizing incentives, like sanctuary cities, free health care, and offers of in-state college tuition for illegal aliens. Along with those calls to abolish I.C.E., what you want is becoming increasingly clear. Your goal is not to negotiate a budget, but to defeat Trump's plans to secure our border. That's called negotiating in "bad faith."

3. Don't negotiate in bad faith

Try candor. Be honest. Stop pretending that you bear no responsibility for the shutdown. Don't argue that "walls are ineffective," when common sense and most experts tell us they work – when statistics show illegal crossings dropping dramatically where walls are constructed. Don't try to argue that surveillance systems, alarms, and fences alone can prevent the kind of chaos that recently occurred when hordes of caravanners trekking North stampeded across the flimsy fencing separating Guatemala and Mexico. And don't say walls are immoral, when you know they help prevent crime. Don't say they're immoral when you refuse to even meet with Angel Families, Americans whose lives were upended by intruders, people who had no right to be in this country.

4. Don't overplay your hand

You may believe that polling data puts you in a strong bargaining position, but external events can quickly change that. More caravans, more illegal border crossings, and more Angel Families are inevitable, and that will only increase the demand for real border security. The shutdown will also soon begin to impact, not only those furloughed federal workers, but the public at large. And as more voters come to understand that you care more about hurting President Trump than you do about any of that, the polls will change, and your bargaining advantage will quickly evaporate.

5. Always remain detached and dignified

Yes, both sides have violated this cardinal rule, but your decision to hold the State of the Union Address hostage along with those furloughed federal workers is unprecedented. While it makes you a hero to the left. history will remember you both as the first woman Speaker of the House and the pettiest, cattiest politician to ever hold that position.

President Trump infuriates the left, but he knows something about negotiating. Actually, he wrote the book on it. He's made some reasonable offers – a starting point. If the leaders of the Democrat Party can stop blaming him long enough to begin meaningful negotiations, they can quickly end this longest shutdown in history.

© Peter Lemiska

 

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Peter Lemiska

Peter Lemiska is a freelance writer and former Senior Special Agent of the U.S. Secret Service... (more)

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