Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why one is hard pressed to take the Democratic Party seriously

Sandy Levinson

The egregious Senate (which does deserve credit for repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, with the support of eight Republican senators), of course also refused to move forward with the "Dream Bill" because there were "only" 55 senators (out of 100, which in some countries that call themselves democracies would be a relevant data point) to support ending debate on the measure. Although, needless to say, most members of the Republican Party voted against cloture, three did not: Senators Richard Lugar, Lisa Murkowsi, and the retiring senators Robert Bennett from Utah, and they deserve genuine kudoi for doing so. But forget the other Republicans. The real disgrace is that the decisive votes to maintain the filibuster were supplied by five ostensible memers of the Democratic Party, Senators Max Baucus and John Tester of Montana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. A serious political party would not allow this. They can, of course, vote however they wish on the final vote. But for ostensible members of the Democratic party to prevent legislation strongly backed by a Democratic President and the Democratic caucus from even coming to the floor should lead to consequences.

I note for the record that Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Conn., whom I have often criticized, voted to end the filibuster. Hurrah for Sen. Lieberman, who also deserves immense credit for exercising real leadership, and breaking with his best friend John McCain (who is having one of the most truly disgraceful end-of-careers imaginable) on Don't Ask Don't Tell.


The true disgrace to me remains the overall system that Lieberman et. al. legitimizes. The system puts individual over party and majority. That is the conceit.

The system aggravates the reality that the Democrats are by nature a weaker coalition than the Republicans, a coalition that allows the tail to wag the dog repeatedly. No matter if the President and the supermajority of the caucus supports something.

Since the Republicans are so lockstep, even when it violates their alleged values, this plays right into their hands.

Lieberman had his day here. I also think a person who was on the dais with him deserves some credit too, Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY). She has been quite vocal on this issue as well as others that matter.

I think the real disgrace of that vote is that a nominally representative body could get THAT CLOSE to passing an amnesty for illegal immigrants after decades of public opposition, and in the midst of double digit unemployment.

The ideological divide between the political class and the public has grown into a gaping chasm. Will anything ever bridge it again, and make representative democracy in this country feasible?

What part was the people against? The part about giving citizenship status to those who served in the military, went to college or was here as children and knew nowhere else but here as home? Or, the part that covers their federal tax liability?

How would depriving such people citizenship help unemployment? Are they not going to be here any more w/o it? Poll data also suggests the people supported the DREAM Act.* Harry Reid was re-elected in part for saying he would support it. What "gaping chasm" are you talking about?

The people elected members of Congress and repeatedly a majority of the people they elected cannot govern because of the system in place. It is rich how then the minority claims they are the true voices of the people.

* Not that how the system is set up now that it will fully represent the American public, though again, for those who care what the Constitution says, this is a feature, not a bug, since it is not supposed to be a fully democratic institution.

Why is it a travesty when the republicans act like a parliamentary party, but it's a travesty when the democrats do not?

In addition to what Joe said, I find it pretty remarkable that Brett, of all people, could complain about the Senate being a "nominally representative body" that fails to represent the people.

amnesty for illegal immigrants

That phrase does not seem appropriate for a child who was brought to the United States by his parents and who, without the DREAM Act, may be sent to a country of which he or she has no memory and whose language he or she does not speak. I can't imagine a basis to support that result other than sadism or racism.

My problem with the DREAM Act is the prejudice it exhibits against people in blue collar trades by requiring non-college students to join the military and risk their lives. These young people do not owe the U.S. anything as a result of their parents having brought them here, and it is arbitrary for a sibling who was born in the U.S. after his or her parents arrived to be treated differently from one who was born before his or her parents arrived. Still, the DREAM Act is better than the existing law.

I think the inability of the DREAM Act to garner cloture's 3/5 rule majority support, McConnell's party procedural vote bloc rule notwithstanding, is a measure of the draft law's incompleteness. Leadership on the issue now transfers back to the executive branch. There needs to be a pow-wow between the US and Mexico. However, it is likely that needs to be deferred until a far future time. Maybe the detente will occur sooner rather than later, if the economy in the US resurges. There are real business reasons why Republicans as well as many Democrats, would balk at a solution that leaves business at a comparative disadvantage; George W. Bush had some sensible things to say about foreign workers and immigration law, but the last time his coalition tried to pass immigration amnesty, the congressional grandstanding became the principal obstacle to an equitable interim solution. Not that the entire issue belongs on MX's doorstep; the sources of the immigration often are far beyond MX's own political ambience, lodged in other more central American countries. I do not see that funding the contras was a particularly relevant approach to regional policy on the US' part, either, although the IRCA amnesty occurred during Reagan's second term.

The other topic of the post, I assess as more of the same social turmoil misunderstood, and, indeed, passe. If congress finally put its imprimatur on new policy, so much the better, even if belated.

I still like Jack's post about the Star Spengld Bener, for its tone of rallying round the flagge.

Doesn't this illustrate the silliness of singling out the filibuster as an "anti-democratic"device? Sure, a "majority" of the Senate favored the bill, but that majority includes a number of retiring or defeated Senators. It is by no means clear that a majority of the Senate next year will support the bill. In contrast, it is clear that a majority of the "democratic" branch, the House, will not support the bill next year.

The reason 5 Democratic Senators opposed the bill is because they know it is politically unpopular in their states.

It seems to me that this illustrates why it is simplistic to view the filibuster as anti-democratic.

"That phrase does not seem appropriate for a child who was brought to the United States by his parents and who, without the DREAM Act, may be sent to a country of which he or she has no memory and whose language he or she does not speak."

Or, of course, may not, because the Dream act didn't have any such requirement that you have entered the country as an infant, or lack proficiency in your native language. The REAL requirements in the legislation were:

"* Must have entered the United States before the age of 16 (i.e. 15 and younger)
* Must have been present in the United States for at least five (5) consecutive years prior to enactment of the bill (I guess recently arrived infants aren't deserving of sympathy...)
* Must have graduated from a United States high school, or have obtained a GED, or have been accepted into an institution of higher education (i.e. college/university)
* Must be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of application
* Must have good moral character"

So, we're talking about a bill that would benefit people up to the age of 35. Yeah, that's really about the children, isn't it?

And then to take advantage of the Act, you could enlist in the military, OR get in just two years of college towards a bachelor's degree in ANY subject, over the space of six years. After which you could drop out, and still claim your route to citizenship.

These are among the reasons support for the bill imploded in polls which actually gave people any details, rather than just describing it in general and approving terms.

If and when Republicans gain control of the Senate, perhaps mls' closing line might be modified to read:

"It seems to me that this illustrates why it is simplistic to view the filibuster as anti-republican."

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, as we are served w(h)ine with lame-duck, with all in a fowl mood.

mls why isn't your post silly?

Why does a majority of the people we elect suddenly no longer become a "true" majority when it includes lame duck members? Are they not really senators any more?

Yes, running out the clock might mean the new Congress will vote differently. It still is undemocratic now.

Does this rule apply to presidential vetoes and such? Are filibusters of their appointees more proper in the second term?

And, senators aren't just independent actors. They are members of parties. They repeatedly vote in part for party reasons. Even when it's unpopular in their states.

The filibuster repeatedly blocked what the House passed this session. But, suddenly, mls thinks the incoming House's actions should be taken into account.

As to Brett, he selectively answered the criticisms and basically doesn't like that the bill doesn't just help children etc. The 'perfect' therefore should be the enemy of the good. See his comment in the next thread.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Adding to what Joe said, mls doesn't really address the problems of the filibuster at all. Even if this particular instance were justified (and it's not, as Joe says), that wouldn't make it justified in most cases.

mls does, however, seem to have made an argument for cutting the transition time after an election, something Prof. Levinson has repeatedly advocated.


The real disgrace is that the decisive votes to maintain the filibuster were supplied by five ostensible memers of the Democratic Party, Senators Max Baucus and John Tester of Montana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. A serious political party would not allow this.

The fact that there are Dems who actually vote the will of their constituents is a "disgrace" which no "serious party" would allow?

I would contend that a party which compels its members to repeatedly disregard the will of their constituents is a organization which voters should take extremely seriously and treat accordingly.

Of course, that is exactly what happened last month, which is why the anti-democratic Democrats are trying to jam through an illegal immigrant amnesty bill in a lame duck session in the week before Christmas when they think no one is looking using the votes of fired Dems and RINOs.

The Democratic Party is now a contradiction in terms. May I suggest instead they change the party name to Caveat Emptor.

Some useful context for Tester's vote:

Oops, meant to go with this one:

Thanks Charles. I think the discussion there is balanced but it has a telling deficit -- it ignores or perhaps takes for granted the anti-democratic (in two senses) nature of the filibuster.

We are not just talking him voting his conscience here, even in a way some or even his party will disagree. The ability to do that, even if it results in a coalition with the other party, is even a good thing sometimes on let's say Fed. 10 level.

But, we are talking about him blocking a vote that a majority, more than a majority, in both houses supported, one his party supported as well. The filibuster is so ingrained that this added issue is often ignored. We hear how the "Senate" voted against something, even if the final vote was 59-32 (sixty votes needed, even with abstentions).

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