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Thursday, November 21, 2013

BooMan on "Dangerous" Democracy

BooMan seems uncharacteristically scared of democracy (I still love him tho'):
While it was necessary to change the rules of the Senate to allow the administration to appoint its staff and put judges on the courts, it still required the Democrats to change the rules with a mere majority. And that precedent is dangerous. It's that precedent that can be used to eliminate the filibuster on legislation (e.g., to ban abortion or privatize Social Security) or on a Supreme Court nominee like Robert Bork. Just because the Democrats preserved the filibuster for legislation and Supreme Court judges today, that doesn't mean anything because the precedent they set will allow a future Senate to change the rules in any way that they might want. Under the circumstances, the Democrats really had no choice and I applaud them for their courage, but this really does change the whole dynamics of American politics. The stability we've grown accustomed to is now a thing of the past. The danger of a Republican majority is now much greater than at any time in our lives. So, remember that when you're celebrating the Democrats' demonstration of backbone. More than anything, today's vote was a symptom of a chronic disease that has been growing and dividing our nation.
First of all, I absolutely agree that the precedent of overturning a supermajority requirement with a simple majority vote ultimately means that the filibuster will be eliminated in the next few months or years in every other area, from legislation to supreme court nominations. Unlike BooMan, I consider this to be a wonderfully welcome larger-stakes longer-term progressive democratizing legacy of today's historic vote that is easily equal to the more immediate impact it has in standing up to Republican nullification strategies and enabling the President to fulfill his Constitutionally mandated task of appointing judges to fill vacancies and staff executive agencies tasked with fulfilling regulatory work mandated by law.

I simply do not believe that a Republican party that would actually outright privatize social security or ban abortion could win enough elections on that agenda to gain control of both congressional branches and the White House, and if Republicans did so without such a mandate they would be overthrown in the next election by overwhelming margins for their pains -- and if you want to entertain dark fantasies of the imposition of total dictatorship at that point, then you have already strayed far enough from present realities that you might as well posit totalitarian takeovers are plausible without the precedent of today's rule change in the Senate, so focus people! Rather than worry about Republicans run wild (as if they haven't anyway), howzabout contemplating instead the legislation we could have on the books by now had the Republican's monolithic obstruction via unprecedented abuse of filibuster rules been circumvented earlier -- from cap and trade, a public option (since the most conservative Democrats would no longer have been able to shape legislation through the indispensability of their Senate votes), card check, comprehensive immigration control with a path to citizenship, a Jobs Bill stimulating the economy with millions of public sector jobs and infrastructure spending (turning the economy around without years of pointless austerity and suffering), gun safety regulation, ENDA, and who knows what else?

When BooMan refers to "the stability we've grown accustomed to" I honestly cannot think what he possibly can mean -- gridlock is stability, I suppose, but I am glad for it to be "a thing of the past." I agree that "the danger of a Republican majority is now much greater than at any time in our lives." Part of the danger represented by Republicans in this ruinous phase of their reactionary neo-confederate extremity is that there are no rules or precedents that Democrats can make them honor by honoring them themselves. (By the way, who is to say that some of these more "moderate" Republicans we are always being told about won't now be empowered to vote WITH Democrats to re-introduce a measure of bipartisanship in legislation now that even monolithic obstruction can no longer succeed in smashing sensible legislation thus complicating the calculus of Republican Senators in less resolutely reactionary districts? Do we really believe that the filibuster is functioning in the contemporary polarized context as a balancing or moderating force?)

Democrats must make government make the lives of everyday citizens better when they are in government and they must win elections by making the stakes of their losing power palpable to everyday citizens. Anti-democratic filibuster rules in the already non-representatively anti-democratic Senate stand in the way of getting things done and obscure the stakes and messaging through which Democrats can communicate the differences between the parties in the context of elections.

The beginning of the end of the filibuster today has not made the Republicans less dangerous -- nothing we do can accomplish this except beating them until they adapt or die. Today's vote is not a "symptom of a chronic disease," but the beginning of the only effective remedy available to us. I will not cease my celebration of Democrats standing up to Republican abuses and further democratizing the Senate whatever the danger. Indeed, the only danger represented by the actions of Reid and Senatorial Democrats today is a danger inherent in Democracy -- and as Democrats we should embrace that danger as well as its potential benefits to do good works and stand on the record of those good works.

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