Truths and Consequences

There are two reasons that the Republicans “won” the house and took more senate seats. One of them was made clear last night at dinner. Our waitress was funny. She started out a little funny-strange, then went to funny-ha ha, and I left the restaurant liking her and wishing more people were mostly like her. The funny-strange bit derived from her thoughtful pauses following certain questions like “do you have vegetables” and “you are out of my favorite beer, what should I drink” and so on. It turns out that we were pretty nearly her first customers ever, and she was hiding her nervousness very well but something (strange) was seeping through. She also heard and began to engage in our conversation, and was probably unsure how appropriate that might be (a good question, indeed). When we proved friendly the banter amongst us evolved into an all-out Michele Bachmann bash-fest, funny-strange had evolved into funny-ha ha and I was glad to be giving this person a tip instead of some Michele Bachmann supporter.

But during the conversation, this interesting thing was said: “Two years ago, I was a total political activist. I did all sorts of things. For some reason this is not so true this year. I’m not sure why.” And, this was embedded in a larger conversation about how it is silly that everybody thinks Obama is lame for having not done anything. A, he has done stuff, and B, you can’t do everything in two years, and C, when did anyone who got elected to that office ever do half of what they talked about during the election. So her present day relative apathy was not a function of disillusionment.

And that is one of the two reasons that the election leaned towards the right this year. For some reason, our waitress, and zillions like her … burned out, too busy, distracted, not fired up for some reason … did not go into the trenches this time around.

Next year, they will, of course. At least, that’s what she promised me last night.

The second reason is the drop off in African American voting rates this time around. African American voting rates are always abysmal, but with an African American candidate nominated by a major party, they went up two years ago. Hopefully they will go up again in two years. In the mean time, we need to find a way to make them always be higher than they typically are.

In the mean tie the hypocrisy festers and the potential for internal strive within the teabagger movement grows. Rush Limbaugh is now telling his drones that “pre-existing conditions coverage” is welfare. He is attacking the most popular part of the health care reform bill. This will work. Pretty soon we’ll have photographs of teabaggers, at rallies, holding up signs equating pre-existing conditions with Communism.

See this post for more discussion on Limbaugh’s idiocy.

In the mean time, Rand Paul, who made a major campaign promise to fight against “earmarks,” has already turned his position and he is not even sworn in yet. We went from this:

“Rand Paul has made a ban on wasteful earmark spending in Washington D.C. one of the key points of his campaign … He has supported Sen. Jim DeMint’s vocal support for an earmark ban and he supports news that House Democrats are even coming around on the idea of a partial ban.”

To this:

In an interview published over the weekend … Paul signaled a major backtrack on a core campaign promise: cutting federal earmarks. … “In a bigger shift from his campaign pledge to end earmarks, he tells me that they are a bad “symbol” of easy spending but that he will fight for Kentucky’s share of earmarks and federal pork…”

See this post for a more detailed documentation and analysis of Paul’s fishy flip flop.

In the mean time, cooler heads prevail. The US Supreme Court has turned down a challenge to the health care reform bill launched by Republicans.

Now, this is a tricky one, and smells like a Newt (as in the stinky kind of Newt, New Gingrich). The presentation of a challenge to the supreme court over an issue that has not been brought to a lower court is routinely ignored. So what we have here is either an abysmally incompetent former Republican lawmaker, or a cynical move to make the court look like it is against a really bad idea that happens to be popular among teabaggers.

Details of that story here.

A similar event has happened in Oklahoma. Oklahomans, as you know, carried out a number of utterly stupid political acts earlier this month, causing this blog to consider naming Oklahoma as the stoopedist state evah. One of their brilliant ideas was to ban Islamic Law from Oklahoma. Part of that was to bad all foreign law. Crazy people proposed this on a ballot and the babies who call themselves voters and citizens in the not so OK state voted for it because they were afraid that with an Islamic Caliphate Loving President and all that pretty soon the Mosque-o-vites would be knocking on their precious doors.

The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations challenged the conditional amendment on the grounds that it officially casts disfavor and condemnation on the Muslim community. In response, a judge has stayed the amendment. We’ll see what happens next. Details are here if you want to follow up.

The point of these two stories is that voters and right wing politicians can bluster and fuss and do stupid crap, but our system has checks and balances and sometimes those checks and balances kinda work.

One wonders if the recent decline in ratings of Fox News is also important.

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18 thoughts on “Truths and Consequences

  1. Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and the Tea Party are all symptoms of Authoritarianism run amuck. We are living a period in US history that has much similarity with the Weimar Republic.

    What is Authoritarianism?
    Authoritarianism is something authoritarian followers and authoritarian leaders cook up between themselves. It happens when the followers submit too much to the leaders, trust them too much, and give them too much leeway to do
    whatever they want–which often is something undemocratic, tyrannical and brutal. In my day, authoritarian fascist and authoritarian communist dictatorships posed the biggest threats to democracies, and eventually lost to them in wars
    both hot and cold. But authoritarianism itself has not disappeared, and I’m going to present the case in this book that the greatest threat to American democracy today arises from a militant authoritarianism that has become a cancer upon the nation.

    The Authoritarians
    Bob Altemeyer

    I’m not sure that voting is going to be enough…

  2. And, this was embedded in a larger conversation about how it is silly that everybody thinks Obama is lame for having not done anything. A, he has done stuff, and B, you can’t do everything in two years, and C, when did anyone who got elected to that office ever do half of what they talked about during the election.

    And here was me thinking that people were regarding Obama as lame because of certain specific things that he has done (which he could have chosen not to) or not done (which he could have chosen to). If he’d tried to put up a even half a fight on, say, single-payer healthcare, or DADT, then things might be different. People are perfectly happy to accept that you can’t always win, but if you won’t even try, they get disillusioned and start suspecting that you don’t even care.

  3. Dunc, explain how an executive can aborgate a law passed by congress? (DADT)

    Also, explain how the Obama health care bill is more lame than any other major transitional legislation we’ve ever had in the past (or at least, the average transitional legislation) when first passed?

    The think is, you can’t have expectations that come out of no where and do not apply at all to how the system of government works or how the political process usually works. I’ve yet to hear a cogent argument that takes these things into account about Obama’s lack of getting stuff done.

    Where he has failed is in making sure to very clearly explain where he is at, and where the process is at, on a regular basis to everyone in a way that those who don’t want to look at the secret hidden places where the information exists (like his web site and so on) to find out will still see/hear the message.

    I have a couple of ideas on how he could do that but so far he has not called me for advice.

  4. Rand Paul told lies during his campaign? WHO AMONG US would have thought he was capable of that?

    The only question is whether he’ll show himself to be as total a waste as his father.

  5. Dunc, explain how an executive can aborgate a law passed by congress? (DADT)

    As far as I know he can’t. You’ll have to forgive my European ignorance of the intricacies American government (look forward to a pop quiz on the details of “Reserved Matters” under the Scottish devolution settlement ;)), but isn’t the president supposed to provide leadership? Plus, IIRC, the Dems had clear majority in both Houses, right?

    Also, explain how the Obama health care bill is more lame than any other major transitional legislation we’ve ever had in the past (or at least, the average transitional legislation) when first passed?

    That’s not my point. I thought I was very clear that that wasn’t my point, but I guess not. My point was that, whilst the final shape of the bill was obviously going to involve a lot of compromise, they could have started from a rather more aggressive initial negotiating position.

    I’m just relaying the general sense I get from reading left-leaning US political blogs. Many people are disappointed that the Obama government didn’t push harder for more “liberal” positions. Now, fair enough, he probably never actually said that he would (and indeed, in other places, I’ve long pursued the “why did you ever imagine that he would do that?” line), but (rightly or wrongly) people had hopes which have been dashed.

  6. “the Dems had clear majority in both Houses, right?”

    Nope. The Republicans had filibuster power in the Senate.

    Yes, Obama showed amazing leadership skills in the election and these have not been as obvious since then. That has to come back or we’re screwed!

  7. This is from Thomas Franks’ book What’s the Matter with Kansas? published in 2004,

    For decades Americans have experienced a populist uprising that only benefits the people it is supposed to be targeting. In Kansas, we merely see an extreme version of this mysterious situation. The angry workers, mighty in their numbers, are marching irresistibly against the arrogant. They are shaking their fists at the sons of privilege. They are laughing at the dainty affectations of the Leawood toffs. They are massing at the gates of Mission Hills, hoisting the black flag, and while the millionaires tremble in their mansions, they are bellowing out their terrifying demands. “We are here,” they scream, “to cut your taxes.”

    We are all Kansans now.

  8. Nope. The Republicans had filibuster power in the Senate.

    I didn’t say filibuster-proof. If that’s going to be the requirement to even talk seriously about these issues, then you’re screwed. You’ve got to move that Overton Window, and you do that by talking seriously about things that you know you can’t actually achieve, rather than by aiming for what you think is an achievable compromise and letting your opponents bargain you down from that. Do you think they’re going to wait for a filibuster-proof majority before doing everything they can to mainstream moderately crazy ideas by throwing out lots of really totally insane ideas?

  9. Dunc, you asked “Dems had clear majority in both Houses, right?” and the answer is no, the Republicans have filibusterer power. That means that if the Dems would vote 51-49 for something, it does not happen because the Republicans stop it.

    Of course, they can change that if the simply vote to change the rules at the opening of session next term.

    Or maybe the dems can start making “nuclear threats” like the repubs do. Or, as you are generally suggesting, grow some balls.

  10. This may be a miscommunication issue due to my living in a culture where multi-party parliamentary systems of government are the norm… To me, “clear majority” just means there are more members of Party A than all others combined.

  11. We have a majority rule of 51 percent for many things, then the filibuster cancels the majority unless it is overridden (in the senate only) and you need 60 votes to override that, and then there are some things that require a “super majority” (there are various super majorities).

    And exactly two parties. That’s not in the constitution but we are somehow stuck with it.

  12. I had thought that “earmarks” were the means by which Congress exercised its authority to specify how the executive may spend money. Pork-barreling is one thing, earmarks as such quite another.

    As for Sharia law – I don’t see any problem a state saying that the laws of the land are those laws made by state congress, not those promulgated by a religion, and that the judiciary has no business enforcing laws that are not actually laws at all. A pity they didn’t make it a little broader.

  13. You are correct about pork barrel vs earmarks, but we conflate the two in our national psyche because we are too stupid to handle the complexity of it all.

    Doesn’t really matter, though. Paul played to the ignorance of his supporters by promising to not engage in earmarking. Live by the dumb-ass lie, die by the dumb-ass lie.

    Paul, you are missing the point . The same exact people are insisting that the ten commandments of the christian bible are the basis of the law, and they are insisting that Abrahamic scripture be emblazoned on the walls of our public institution. But not the Muslim stuff. To suggest that this is about keeping church and state separate is abysmally ignorant of you. I assume that is the willful, politically motivated kind of ignorance because no actual person can actually be that ignorant. Right?

  14. Obama could have simply declined to appeal DADT and DOMA in the courts, showing the same leadership the Republican governors of Florida and California did. Done, let’s move on. Alternatively, the Democrats in Congress could have chosen not to freeze moderate Republicans who had shown some indication they would be willing to come along on DADT repeal out of the amendment process to the Defense Reauthorization Bill.

    He says he’s for LGBT rights while actively fighting against them. He does not have to fight against them, but he does.

  15. “Obama could have simply declined to appeal DADT and DOMA in the courts, showing the same leadership the Republican governors of Florida and California did.”

    That is simply not true. The justice department is supposed to work independently. An executive directive to the Justice department is very rare, troubling, problematic, and if it happens it is usually in the form of appointing special council and this is not an appropriate use of that.

    Yes, it is technically possible but that is the ethical equivalent of Nixon firing Cox. (sort of, hard to draw an exact parallel).

    I do believe that an executive order to the military to acknowledge the judges decision and not practice DADT until further notice would be acceptable, but if DADT became legislative dogma afterwards that would cause havoc.

    It is very frustrating but it is not appropriate to blame Obama for making a bad decision. Well, he did make the same mistake every single person I’ve ever seen run for president make: promise to pass or change lawas when he’s only going to be the president and not the congress.

  16. Dunc, explain how an executive can aborgate a law passed by congress? (DADT)

    I think you’re very right about that Greg. I’m not understanding how American expectations of their president even remotely fit in with what it seems to say in the US constitution.

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