Don’t Get It

Virginia Foxx’s batshit crazy, homophobic, denialism on the floor of the House yesterday regarding the torture and murder of Matt Shepherd for being gay really is one of the most obscene things I’ve seen from any Republican, let alone an elected official, I can ever recall taking place. This is what passes for acceptable in the modern Republican party. As a result, it’s no wonder that women, working class Americans, minorities, and educated people are all running away from them in droves.

I read a lot of chatter on Republican blogs like RedState and The Next Right about how they can rebuild their party and restore their electoral success of the 1990s and early 2000s. There’s often talk about being more conservative, more principled, and more clear with voters about what they stand for. What is rarely discusses is how poisonous the ideas of a significant part of their party truly are. There’s no doubt that the bile and venom we’ve seen thrown out by the likes of Foxx, Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, and a few other leaders of the Republican Party are, indeed, forcing voters away from them. Unless and until Republicans find a way to excise the cancer that is the hatred-driven wing of their party, they will only be assured their well-deserved place as they become a regional party incapable of influencing the national agenda. America is better than this sort of sickening crap and it’s truly shameful that the Republican Party does not grasp the character of our country and what we will and will not tolerate when it comes to hatred.

Bipartisanship Preview

I think Matt Yglesias is right that the small number of Republicans who were able to cast their vote in favor of confirming Kathleen Sebelius for Health & Human Services does not bode well for the chances of getting cooperation from Republicans on healthcare reform.

In theory this would be a good time to take our newly-formed SUPERMAJORITY and use it to pass good legislation that includes a public plan and tell Republicans to deal with it. Somehow I doubt that will be what will happen.

Arlen Specter: Theory vs. Practice

The various reactions to Arlen Specter switching to the Democratic Party seem widely varied based on who is responding and on what they are responding to. It seems to me that the difference is how people are thinking about what Specter’s switch means and whether they are applying their thoughts through a matrix of theoretical values of having 60 Democrats in the Senate caucus or an empirical one based around what Specter is specifically saying he will and will not do. Not shockingly, elected Democrats in Washington seem to have fully embraced the theoretical benefits of a 60th Democrat, regardless of who that “Democrat” is and what they are actually saying they will do as a member of our caucus.

Ron Wyden, one of the more liberal members of the Senate, said “This is transformative…It’s game-changing.” Naturally that was my first reaction too, but one look at his written statement caused me to question that. Specter came out of the gate not only saying he’ll continue to oppose Employee Free Choice, probably the most important issue his vote will be needed on this year, but that it’s the archetype of how he won’t be a reliable vote for cloture for Democrats. Specter then expanded on his opposition to Free Choice in his press conference.

Obviously going beyond Wyden, we’ve seen ecstatic responses from the likes of Harry Reid and President Obama. It seems the idea of having a supermajority is something so theoretically powerful that actual examination of what we gained is not terribly important, or at least it wasn’t yesterday. Perhaps as the reality of Specter as a member of the Democratic caucus in the Senate plays itself out, we’ll see a reduction of enthusiasm from those who are most clearly responding to the theoretical value of a supermajority. When that happens, perhaps we’ll also see Obama and Reid walk away from their pledge to campaign and fundraise for Specter and to keep other Democrats out of a primary with him.

I’ve also heard a number of commentators point out that Specter may be making noises on his areas of differences with the Democrats, but will likely come home to roost when we need his vote.  Specter may have a history of saying one thing out of principle and voting on another. He’s known as a limp noodle and his statements of certitude and principle are almost always good cues to know that he will vote in the opposite direction. But in the course of the last eight years or so, when he’s moved away from stated principle to cast a vote, it has effectively always been in the direction of the conservative Republican Party. Why in the world should we assume that when Specter says he will not back the Employee Free Choice Act or the confirmation of Dawn Johnsen at OLC that he would, in fact, vote with the Democratic caucus?

The supermajority is not a real thing. It is not like a majority. It is in flux on every single vote and can only be maintained when there is serious leadership to keep the caucus together. We have never seen that kind of hard-armed leadership from Harry Reid and we would be naive to expect it now. If anything, this move assures Reid will have even less control on keeping the liberal/Democratic agenda coming from the House and White House moving forward. Instead, the conservative/moderate Democrats ostensibly lead by Evan Bayh will have more power than before. They will have added a vote to a mini-caucus of people that just don’t like the idea of moving the fairly progressive Obama agenda forward, regardless of electoral mandate or policy imperative. As a result, the likelihood of getting good legislation originating from the House or the White House is reduced, as the Bayh caucus will consistently hold whatever offends their delicate sensibilities hostage.

I’d love to be proved wrong. I’d love to see Specter become the loyal Democrat he claimed to be seven minutes after switching parties. I’d love if he also redefined loyalty to include actually supporting the party’s agenda. I’d love to see him get some fig leaf cover to flip again and support cloture on Employee Free Choice. But I’m not going to celebrate the theoretical virtues of a supermajority that has not been proven to exist, especially on our most important issues.

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NB: I haven’t even addressed the fact that Obama, Reid and the DSCC have pledged to keep Specter free from a primary opponent. This level of premature ejaculation over the theoretical virtues of having Specter be the Democrat’s “reliable” 60th vote is simply too hard to wrap my mind around just yet.

No Longer Operative

Apparently this is no longer operative:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday that Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R-Pa.) decision to reject “card-check” legislation has ended any chance of a party switch.

Reid as well as Vice President Biden, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) and Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) have tried recently to persuade Specter to leave the GOP.

But Specter smashed those hopes by declaring this week that he would vote against any effort to quash a filibuster of the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as the card-check bill.

“Yes, I’ve talked to him,” Reid told reporters Friday of his efforts to convince Specter to leave the Republican Party.

“But he, in coming out against card-check, stopped everyone from being able to help him.”

Per usual, I would love to get a seat at Harry Reid’s poker game.

They Write Op-Eds

Renowned Tibetan blogger Woeser has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. The piece is about the framing and railroading of Buramna Rinpoche, a 52-year-old Living Buddha who is the head of Pangri and Yatseg nunneries in Kardze. Buramna was tortured for four days following his arrest on charges of possessing weapons. His lawyers were denied access to him and the trial was inexplicably moved far from Kardze, one of many actions that has been done to deny Buramna, a major religious leader, due process under the law. Woeser’s whole piece is yet another description among the endless list of violations of Tibetans’ rights by the Chinese government.

Bad Faith Bipartisanship

The Obama administration has consistently made good on President Obama’s campaign promise to govern as a post-partisan and look to bring Republicans into the governing process. Multiple Republicans were nominated to cabinet posts. And despite fears to the contrary by Republicans and Beltway journalists, the administration has refused to pursue any policy course that could possibly be described as “vindictive” following eight years of Republican failure and lawbreaking.

But how has the administration been repaid for their magnanimity? Well as anyone who has paid attention to the Republican Party over the last forty years (and especially the last sixteen) would expect, the Republicans have remained committed to partisan obstructionism for the sake of politics. No matter how far President Obama has gone to bring Republicans along on the path of rebuilding this country, their response has not changed. They opposed the stimulus effectively unanimously. They opposed national service. They opposed making banks accountable to government oversight. Every where we look, we see partisan Republican obstructionism (though liberal Democrats seem far more likely to be called out for partisan behavior).

The latest example is found in Kansas Senator Sam Brownback. Brownback had come out strongly in favor of the nomination of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius for Secretary of Health and Human Services. In fact, his endorsement initially augured a swift confirmation for Sebelius. Now, months later, Sebelius languishes awaiting confirmation and Brownback is making noises about opposing her.

This is a joke, played out on repeat, because it’s the only joke the Republican Party knows how to tell. It’s as if a political party was created around the premise of bad faith in all their business.

Hopefully the administration and Democratic leaders in Congress are cognizant of what is happening. The press certainly isn’t in an uproar over Republican obstructionism of the popular president’s election-mandated agenda, so it will require an iota of scrutiny for the Democrats to see what’s going on on their own. As much as it might be comforting to treat their political opponents as good faith agents to be worked with for the betterment of the country in a way that was entirely absent the previous eight years, Republicans do not operate in good faith. Policy efforts aiming to achieve their goals with the help of mythical good faith Republicans are sadly doomed to failure. It’s time to reevaluate, sharpen our collective elbows, and start muscling through the agenda President Obama was elected to implement.