Moderate Republican Senator
Once again, late to get started due to J. McCain and L. Graham’s arriving late from Palm Steakhouse. Have repeatedly told them to leave the restaurant earlier — hard to do, apparently, because they’re always forced to enjoy large desserts sent to them from a large national teachers’ union. When I suggested to them that perhaps this is part of the problem they’re experiencing with rank-and-file members of their own party, they called me a crackpot. Also: They were carrying leftovers, which made the session room smell like an Outback Steakhouse. Session did not start well.
Some members of the group related, during the sharing session, that they found the term “RINO” to be hurtful and offensive. A senator from a midwestern state mused aloud about the possibilities of adding the term to a list of forbidden “hate speech” terms in a bill currently being written by Representative Maxine Waters (D., Calif.). There was general enthusiasm for this kind of thing. “Reaching across the aisle” was a phrase many members used.
Therapist attempted, at that point, to use this as a teachable moment. Could it not be, therapist asked, that the whole point of being a Republican was to oppose this exact kind of legislation? So in this case, “reaching across the aisle” wouldn’t be compromise as much as capitulation. How does the group respond to that?
Patient McCain flicked leftover mashed potatoes on therapist.
Session ended early.
Once again the session started late, this time due to several members’ arriving from a lengthy closed-door negotiation meeting, in which serious budgetary matters were discussed. Several of the more “conservative” members of the group were frustrated by some of the other members’ intransigence on the matter of taxes. Again, therapist chose to reframe this discussion through the lens of the members’ ongoing feelings of “displacement” and “not fitting in” to the prevailing mood of their own party. What would, therapist asked, a rank-and-file member of the party view as an acceptable middle-class tax rate? J. McCain and others muttered, “Zero!” with great irritation.
And what was the sense of the group, therapist asked, in terms of an effective middle-class tax rate?
The group displayed great consensus and agreement. “Ninety percent,” said one member of the Senate Republican caucus.
Therapist then tried to illustrate effective compromise techniques: How about somewhere in the middle, he asked. How about a middle-class tax rate of 45 percent?
The entire group of moderate Republicans nodded enthusiastically. They saw how compromise was possible, and how a certain decision can be framed for the electorate as a “win” for both sides. All members of the group were comfortable predicting that their counterparts in the Democratic party would embrace this idea. Several left early to leak the plan to their contacts at the New York Times.
The session ended on a high note.