Please Harry, Don't Do It!

WASHINGTON – Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid is quietly talking to the Senate’s chief Republican about confirming at least two of President Bush‘s blocked judicial nominees but only as part of a compromise that would require the GOP to end its threat to eliminate judicial filibusters, officials say.

WHY!? Why compromise! 60% of Americans disagree with ending the filibuster…. 60%!!! Call their bluff, just like you did on Social Security.

Putin on the Merits

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the nation Monday that the collapse of the Soviet empire “was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” and had fostered separatist movements inside Russia.

The minute I saw this, I could hear the right-wing hackles, couldn’t you? I’m no Putin fan, but I know this comment will be received in a way that will raise the DefCon at the Heritage Institute.

But before we get into analyzing what meaning Putin was trying to telegraph, let’s think about his claim. Is it correct?

No, it’s not, but it contains a kernel of truth.

First, the geopolitical fallout from the fall of the Soviet Union was not the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century. That easily takes a backseat to the rise of the Soviet Empire and the fall of Weimar Germany.

But on to the meat of the claim: was it a catastrophe at all? No, it was a wonderful moment. But the power vacuum created by the fall of the Soviet state has indeed been calamatous. It has left the United States as the lighting rod for anti-super power angst, especially in the muslim world. Fallout from this fall has occurred in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba, and North Korea. The United States has been left to be the world’s cop in the rest of the world, and we have done a shitty job in many respects.

In other words, it sure has caused catastrophes, but it wasn’t itself one.

Thoughts on the filibuster.

The filibuster is an undemocratic tool of an undemocratic branch of government.

It allows a group of 41 senators, possibly representing the 21 least populated states to prevent anything from happening. To put that in perspective, that means that if all of the senators from WY, VT, AK, ND, SD, DE, MT, RI, HI, NH, ME, ID, BE, WV, NM, NV, UT, AR, KS, MS, and one from IA got together, they could stall the government. And they represent only about 33 million people, or LESS THAN the population of California alone.

That’s what I call bullshit. If you consider that it only requires a 50.000001% majority of that 33 or so million, then we’re talking only 16 or 17 million people potentially ruling the other roughly 280 million, and why? So that Yankees won’t come and take away someone’s plantation?

If the filibuster were an implement of the House, I would be singing a slightly different tune.

So, if I were drafting the Constitution today, it’s not the filibuster I would take out, it’s the Senate (with appropriately strengthened 9th and 10th amendments).

But in the rough and tumble of today’s political world, this has nothing to do with increasing democracy. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s an attempt by an ideological minority to control yet another undemocratic branch of government, the courts, with their own activist partisans.

If I’m forced to choose between “activists” like Earl Warren, who to appropriate a phrase came to fulfill the Constitution, not to end it–and “activists” like Clarence Thomas who would repeal the twentieth and nineteenth centuries (how that’s gonna work out for him, I’m not sure–a low-tech lynching?), I’ll take the former.

The problem with people like Kaus is that for all of his criticisms of liberals and Dems, he never gives an equally tough rundown of the otherside. We’re hypocrites because we’re “non-nuclear” just because the Republicans are in charge?

Bumpkus. We’re hypocrites if we’re pro-nuclear when we have full knowledge that the result will be several lifetime appointments meant to go against everything that liberals stand for. Vote for me, I’m pro-whatever, but only on a floor vote? If there are any abstractions in the way I’m not?

It’s exactly this kind of self-doubt inducing analysis–the kind only Democrats get caught up on–that lets them win.

You dirrrrrty Rat-zinger.

I knew when I got an IM from a friend this morning that there was white smoke that it was Ratzinger. Too quick for a consensus to build around an opposition candidate.

Now, I’m not going to engage in left-wing AnnCoulterism and call him a nazi. He wasn’t. He was just a kid, and in his defense, he deserted. No, that’s not my problem.

My problem is that this is a guy who complained that nothing “stands fast” in the Church during II Vatican Ecumenical Council. There have been, I believe, over twenty ecumenical councils, or, more than one per century. These councils change things. We he go back on the Council of Trent?

Gee willickers, he went back on II Lateran, then priests could marry! Where do we draw the line at what’s Orthodox? I think the answer is, whatever was decided by these councils!

I had high hopes. I had hopes that the new Pope would be someone that could bring people back into the fold and use the Church as a positive force in the world. There are few institutions in the world that have the organization and membership that the Church does, and if used correctly could be so positive, especially now that America has adbicated its role as the morally progressive leader of the world.

In fairness, he was elected to be a transition pope. He’s old. So, the real fork in the road for the Church has been put off, but it won’t be put off for long.

TPM Nails It.

When it comes to strategy and tactics, the current Democratic party is like a drunk in the early stages of recovery or a man or woman who keeps ending up in the same bad relationship again and again with different people. For folks like that, strong medicine is required. Indeed, they usually require steps, correctives, lists of dos-and-don’ts more drastic than anybody would ever need who didn’t have a problem.

Exactly. Go read.

I think that was powerfully, if not eloquently captured by the Bush campaign’s “flip-flopper” label. It could have applied to almost any of the Dem candidates (except Dean.)

I think people realize that the Republicans are going to be friendlier to corporations than they’d prefer, more militant than they’d prefer, but they know that. People think Democrats are going to raise taxes (rightly or wrongly), overregulate small business more than they’d like, and be less militant than they’d maybe like.

Taxes need to be raised from time to time. If you’re trying to sell something and you’re arguing over the tax part of it, you’ve lost. Argue the substance. For example, think we’d have much getting to votes for a tax for national defense if it somehow had to be separately authorized?

After the extremes of the Bush years, Democrats would be well advised to settle on a them and stick to it. Explain everything that way. I’d say “common sense answers, not radical ones” would be a good theme (if not a bumper sticker motto).

Sometimes, we’ll raise taxes; sometimes we’ll lower them. Sometimes we’ll bomb; sometimes we won’t. Whatever’s best for America.

On Reviving a Democratic Political Party

The recuperation of the Democratic Party in the state of Oregon in the 1950s is a minor legend that has probably grown a bit too perfect in the retelling over the years. The essential strategy, however, bears repeating. A group of young activists took over the state party apparatus and found that

“the party was fatally burdened by crooks, drunks, has-beens, never-wases and stumble-bums. Our party was not taken seriously by voters in those days. Too many of them knew that it served as an auxiliary to the Republican Party, drawing its financial backing from moneyed Republicans, who thus guaranteed themselves a docile adversary which could either be defeated or managed…. My job as state chairman from 1952-56 consisted mainly, then, of riding the bums out, recruiting first-rate candidates and giving the public competing points of view to choose between. The merit of this approach shows in the election results.”

Those results were that Democrats came back from the dead and won the governorship, all but one congressional seat; won one Senate seat and convinced the maverick Independent (and ex-Republican) Senator Wayne Morse to join up with them, thus giving them both Senate seats.

The current moribund national Democrats are similar to the Oregon Democrats of the first half of the twentieth century. Already younger activists have figuratively taken the helm in the person of Howard Dean. It is harder to get enough money from other sources to completely feed from a different trough than the Republicans, but there is still enough room to offer a competing, positive vision. Republicans are finding that Bush got reelected less for his ideas than for scaring people to the point that they weren’t comfortable with John Kerry. There is still room for better ideas to allow America to make up for the frightened ‘04 vote.