Democracies are not such good things. [but then again, what’s the old Churchill quote? “Democracy is the worst form of government until you’ve tried the rest.”] Often times, democracies can be short-sighted and act as a giant wealth transfer from wealthier voters to poorer voters.
In America, we’ve got two parties. The party that talks about the deficit and runs it up and the party that doesn’t talk about the deficit and runs it up. It can sometimes be very difficult to tell one party from the other (I can remember back in 2000 when common wisdom on my campus held that Bush and Gore were essentially the same person, which I think, is why so many progressives went for Gore that year. They learned their lesson and haven’t left the reservation since then.)
And sometimes it is difficult to tell which party is which. Sometimes, though, the differences can be very, very stark. The last week or so has really shown a rift between the Republican and Democrat parties and their relationship with democracy.
The first was the (non-)vote on the Iran Nuclear deal. Most Americans were opposed to it (according to Pew and Quinnipiac, the less reliable ones (and some older polls) showed a more favorable opinion). Call it Republican propaganda (or just good old fashioned persuasion), but at the time when Senate Democrats filibustered a vote on it, America, democratically-speaking, did not want it. Your friendly neighborhood Granola Republican understands that the measure, if passed by House and Senate, would have been vetoed by our president, but Democrats kept to from even getting that far.
Before I continue: let’s talk about Republican filibusters. The Republicans filibustered a hell of a lot of nominees by Obama (some hoping that he’d lose the 2012 race and Romney (sigh) would have gotten to make the picks). Like, a lot. Like, probably too many for most people’s tastes.
What about actual legislation though? I racked my brains trying to come up with actual filibusters of actual legislation. I had to go back to 2009 to the Affordable Care Act, which the Republicans never actually filibustered. More recently, the Republicans (well, Rand Paul), filibustered the Patriot Act. That’s it. That’s the only thing that I could come up with that the Republicans filibustered. Did having 60 votes keep legislation from being proposed? Sure. But there haven’t been any major legislative pieces since the ACA (you know, like, six years ago…). There have been lesser things. You can go read about them on Bernie Sander’s website (they include leftist things like a $15 minimum wage). But major, structural changes to the way America works? Complex treaties with other countries? You can say that the Republicans don’t want to negotiate on immigration now (Democrat readers, you had that chance in 2007), but Republicans haven’t actively squashed debate on it.
So, back to Democrat filibusters. Most people in the US opposed it. A majority of both Houses Representatives opposed it. Democrats protected it, not just through veto, but from even being voted on in the house. This is the opposite of democracy.
The other bill blocked by Democrats this week would have banned abortions after 20 weeks (with the customary exceptions for rape, incest, and health of mother). This one is worse, in terms of what Americans actually believe. The polls are pretty clear. Most Americans want legal abortion in the first trimester (12-13 weeks). Overwhelming majorities oppose abortion after that (like over 70 percent for 2nd trimester and 90 percent for 3rd trimester).
This bill would have protected abortion legality for two months past the first trimester, or about the first half of a pregnancy. This is entirely in line with what Americans want. Like, literally, it’s the compromise on abortion.
Senate Democrats blocked it. Sure, there are a lot of Republicans who would like to outlaw all abortions. That’s not what this bill did, though. It drew the line where Americans wanted it drawn. Democrats are nowhere near the middle on this issue. They are waaaaaaay out of step with Americans on this. Democrats are defending a position taken by maybe a quarter of the population who are very, very hardline on abortion.
Somewhere, I have a feeling that the 1990’s Democrats would have passed this, and that “Safe, Rare, and Legal” Bill Clinton wouldn’t have signed it. The Democrat party needs to look very, very closely at where it is on this issue before it really comes back to bite them.
I guess I’m not surprised at this. The Democrat Party since 2006 has shown very little appetite for actual democracy. George Bush garnered huge bipartisan support for both wars he got us into, as well as the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, and Sarbanes-Oxley (Medicare Part D was much more partisan of a vote). The Bush administration was very, very willing to try to construct an immigration bill, including several points of compromise to try to move things along.
Our current administration, however, has shown almost zero initiative in building coalitions to get things accomplished (with the exception of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Please for the love of Zeus let me buy a small pickup truck). The Affordable Care Act will be remembered by generations of Republicans as high perfidy and enough jiggery-pokiness to drive a certain Supreme Court Justice to drink. President Obama has no other major legislative accomplishments. His Wikipedia page of accomplishments is filled with trite symbolism (Lily Ledbetter) or not-really-accomplishments like passing funding bills. His major accomplishments (along with Democrats) during his presidency have been not allowing Republicans to pass bills.
And ultimately, this is caused by the Democrats’ original sin. Forcing the hugely, hugely unpopular ACA on the nation drove what was left of the Reagan Coalition into the Republican Camp, guaranteeing it a perpetual majority in the House and Senate for the time being. The very first move by the president was to essentially tell Republicans, “I’m going to do what I want. I don’t need your help. I will use whatever underhanded maneuvering I need to in order to do what I want.” His use of the judiciary and executive branches to bypass the legislative has been remarkable in its willingness to torture the constitution(“mirabile aucacitate!”, in case anyone had been really hoping to see a supine today).
The tied themselves to the ACA, to abortion on demand, and to the deal with Iran. When those things go south, they are going to have a very hard time blaming Republicans for their messes.