Tuesday, May 18, 2010

That McConnell Thing

All the smart liberal bloggers -- Chait and Drum and Yglesias, and I'm sure E. Klein would too if he wasn't under the weather today, and I'm sure there are more if I looked harder -- are sort of beside themselves at how those wacky Kentucky conservatives foolishly think that Mitch McConnell is, as Chait puts it, a "Democratic Patsy."  Now, they're all good posts, but really...couldn't one of them have pointed out that this is basically exactly the same situation as Democrats on the left faced during the previous decade, and Democrats on the left reacted exactly the same.

No, Dems didn't have 60 in the Senate -- but Republicans didn't try anything as difficult as health care reform, preferring an eat-dessert-always program of tax cuts, increased spending, tax cuts, wars of revenge, and tax cuts.   And, yes, Dems didn't always react by filibustering everything (and as everyone knows many Dems voted for various Bush things, but generally for things that would have passed anyway), but they did filibuster quite a bit...that's why the Bush tax cuts were set to expire, because the threat of a Democratic filibuster forced the GOP to use reconciliation.  I'm confident that had the Democratic leadership followed the strategy that Republicans have followed in 2009-2010 that basically the same things would have passed, and liberal activists would have reacted the same way: by blaming Democrats for being too weak. 

Here's my sense of it.  Given a Madisonian political system and a very large nation, the winners are always going to be frustrated because, well, they won, and why isn't everything they wanted getting enacted?  And the losers are always going to be frustrated because their side has all the energy and it sure feels as all those people with all that conviction that the governing party is wrong must surely count for something in a democracy. 

Me?  I tend to feel sorry for the pols who have to put up with such stuff.  But I'm funny that way, I guess.


  1. "I'm confident that had the Democratic leadership followed the strategy that Republicans have followed in 2009-2010 that basically the same things would have passed....."

    Really? Including the war in Iraq?

  2. Yeah. The Dems held a 51-49 advantage, plus Chafee voted no. That's 52 potential votes. However,one of those was Zell Miller, and another was Joe Lieberman. I'm totally certain that Miller would not have gone along with any Democratic strategy that involved voting against the war, and I'm, oh, 99% certain that Miller was also not available. That makes 50 votes for the war, plus Cheney. At least...I count at least two or three others who would have been damn hard to keep on board.

    So the bottom line is that they just didn't have the votes. And while I can see a case that they bargained poorly given the situation, the bottom line was that Republicans had the votes to do what they wanted to do. Moreover, I'm not convinced that Rove/Bush/Cheney preferred, as any normal competent WH would have preferred, getting >70 votes for war; I think it's just as likely that they would have been very happy to win it 53-47. And so while in a normal situation the Dems would have had a pretty good bargaining situation (we'll support a potential war if you do X, Y, and Z sincerely, and only then use arms as a last resort), I really they basically got rolled because Rove/Cheney/Bush's insane preference for going to war with 51% of the country was short-term effective (but a long-term disaster).

    Now, that leaves procedural blocks, but IMO it is entirely unrealistic to block going to war, not to mention a popular (at the time) war supported by a popular president, with a filibuster. A Supreme Court candidate, yes, a major bill, yes, but a war? If it had happened, the GOP would have gone nuclear, and with Miller and Lieberman they would have had the votes to do it.

    OK, that's the argument. I don't expect to convince liberals, but I do think that was what Daschle faced (in the House, of course, the minority party is totally powerless).

  3. I don't totally disagree with you, but it's a matter of degree.

    And that warish thing - Democrats did go along - lots of them.

    Now, the Repugs are unified in their obstruction to anything the current administration proposes. It's obstuction for its own sake. I don't thing the Dem EVER dis that.

    And McConnell has been at the forefront of the obstruction. Yes there is always partisanship, but the teabag movement is devouring their own, out of a sense of ideological purity that has no basis in reality.

    This is a different category of political activism than being mere sore losers, and frankly, the level of delusion is frightening.



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