While a riled up Harry Reid may resemble a cross between an awakening Rumpelstiltskin and an aroused gas mask, to conjure Frank Zappa, today he was finally ‘mad as hell, and not going to take it anymore,” in the face of Republicans’ filibustermania to be specific, and more generally, Republicans’ ever curdling and fully permeating bad faith.
It’s a belated action of course, Harry Reid and senate Democrats up to now not so much the 95 pound weaklings getting sand kicked in their faces, than the poor bastards buried in sand all the way up to their foreheads.
The immediate impetus for Reid to support and bring to a vote restrictions on the Senate minority’s filibuster tool may have been the insufferable and essentially anti-democratic abuse of it by Republicans during the length of Obama’s tenure: 82 blocked administration nominees to everything from cabinet heads and agency staff to federal court vacancies, including on the nation’s most influential appeals court. That’s a stark number given that 86 is the full tally of blocked presidential appointments for all of the other presidents combined in history.
But the broader impetus was Republicans’ overall historic and unprecedented, at least since the Civil War (the one before this one that is) sabotage, procedural maximalism, ideological absolutism and cultural and political nihilism producing such a monstrosity of dysfunction that it required not only children but fully grown adults to shield their eyes from the intestinally precarious sight of the wreckage.
Since the election of Bill Clinton, and Republicans’ de-facto declaration then, that the legitimacy of the Democratic Party no longer would be recognized, nor its presidents’ authority regarded as legitimate either, the hardening of the ideological fanaticism has only hastened and worsened, to the point that today’s Republican Party, refreshed with an infusion of jejune and aswoon Ayn Rand fanboys set on moving the country wholly into fantasyland, has stirred Democrats at long last to acknowledge in a substantial way, that the currently constituted Republican Party is not only an American and international outlier, but an existential threat to themselves, their party and the country too.
Abuse of the filibuster was reason enough for tangible consequences, but the lapse of the Republican Party into pervasive bad faith of such proportions it no longer is a functioning political party in the sense of as much as even entertaining the mere idea of doing the people’s business is a larger problem, the Republican Party debased into a cynical marketing colossus and nothing more, an all but robotic purveyor of Doublespeak, disinformation and degradation of many Americans and American institutions, a metastasized cuteness arguably too cute for its own good, and most certainly for anybody else’s.
Pundits may have at their disposal all manner of innovative ways to parse the Republicans’ hostile crusade to prevent Americans from acquiring health insurance and medical care, but in the end, like the nasty quest to take the food stamps away from those in jeopardy of hunger without them, or the attack on the unemployment benefits keeping a roof over many heads literally, no matter the middlebrow media glossing, it is vicious and it is despicable, and not only do Republicans know it, they appear to relish it (Did you really think Republicans applauding the potential death of an uninsured man during the Republican primaries was some anomaly?)
No party in the minority is happy when the opposition party in power exercises its prerogative to make executive appointments, to courts or agencies or wherever. But that is the system’s reward for, and the democratic imperative of winning national elections. Until now, no party has attempted the outright, in fact brazen nullification of a presidential election and executive governance.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when it come to warnings that Democrats will end up eating the filibuster change once they are in the minority again:
1. Democrats in the past have used the filibuster only sparingly, if not delicately. Otherwise, the federal court system would not be stacked top to bottom as it is now with reactionary jurists, many approved with Democratic majorities in fact, nor would the Supreme Court feature an ambulatory corporation such as John Roberts or a Republican factotum such as Sam Alito.
2. If Democrats hadn’t gone ahead and changed the filibuster rules today, or eventually, Republicans, as sure as God made little green capers would do it the very millisecond after they came to power again. Not only is it salutary that Democrats have demonstrated a willingness to play the game with a modicum of the ferocity and commitment Republicans regularly deploy, but a great deal of good on behalf of the country can be done in the meantime.
If Mitch McConnell, who so famously said his overriding goal as majority leader was to prevent the reelection of Barack Obama, doesn’t like Democrats’ detonation of the nuclear option, he can take a large suppository of Strontium-90 and put it where the moon don’t shine.