Saturday, November 19, 2016

Response to Carrying On

(See: Just Above Sunset: Carrying On)

“Not My President”? Ha! I only wish that were true! Of course he’s my president! But that’s precisely the problem, isn’t it?

For the past week and a half, all my dreams at night have seemed to follow a similar pattern. Something big and sinister has happened — the whole world has changed into something resembling the plot of that 2013 movie, The Purge, in which "The New Founding Fathers of America" are voted into office following economic collapse, and then put through a Constitutional Amendment that sanctions a 12-hour period once every year in which all crimes are legal — and so my family and I are looking for some way of sealing up the house before the bad guys get here. For some reason, I always wake up before they arrive. Maybe that’s because it hasn’t happened quite yet.

What I remember thinking just before drifting off to sleep early Wednesday morning, just after learning that my country has been taken over by a true confederacy of dunces, was, “Oh, great! First, Henry, my cat, dies — and now this!”

In a posting two days later in his blog, Paul Krugman wrote, "I myself spent a large part of the Day After avoiding the news, doing personal things, basically taking a vacation in my own head.” Same here, except that my brain-snooze lasted until just now. I haven’t written any comments since that day largely because there wasn’t anything to say that you yourself weren’t already thinking.

But the first thing that needs to be said is to all those who have been whining about us Hillary-supporters pretending that this election wasn’t just another election like any other, and that it’s time get over it:
“Oh, yeah? Tell it to Jesus!"
We’re not pretending! You didn’t just elect another Ronald Reagan, after which we can all calm down and try to work together! This wasn’t even like electing Richard Nixon, or, for that matter, Barry Goldwater!

This was more like putting Al Capone in the White House, simply because he is an "outsider” who, although without relevant experience, was a “successful businessman” of sorts who knew how to “shake things up”! Yeah, I know, you guys like him because he’s a tough guy who knows how to make people do what he wants — but, you argue, that can be a good thing, right? I mean, isn’t that what the world needs right now — some “non-politician" who says what he means and means what he says?

As a matter of fact, no! No, it’s not.

Think of it this way:

The country has been chugging along relatively nicely, with a recovering economy doing much better than those other countries who have been following the same “austerity” route favored by our own Republicans, and with record-low unemployment, and with a highly-experienced Democratic candidate not ashamed to promise more of the same — but also a Republican party, which has spent several decades doing nothing but falling to pieces and arguing with itself, not to mention lying and then repeating the lies ad-infinitum, Frank Luntz style, getting people to think that the country is, in fact, in terrible shape, and that the Democratic candidate (who actually had earned high praise from all sides for the jobs she did as Senator and Secretary of State) has been herself lying about one thing or another, such as her emails or something that happened in Benghazi, and that she’s been getting rich in some non-existent pay-for-play scheme with her family charity, that you just can’t trust her for reasons that are hard to articulate — and so, lo and behold, who (or what) do the Republicans name as their nominee?

Some low-life slug who, in any other election year, wouldn’t get a second look, but who lucked out in choosing a year to run in which the Republican selectorate had tired of all the regular-looking candidates and decided to give a shot to some lounge-lizard doing a fairly faithful Andrew “Dice” Clay impersonation.

But while there may be some who think that putting outsider Donald Trump in the White House is just a case of Americans finally giving a well-deserved comeuppance to all those incompetent politicians in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike, I see it as the Republicans continuing their downward spiral that started back in the election of Ronald Reagan — or maybe even to Richard Nixon and Watergate, which started out, promisingly enough, in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation in solving a national problem, but then the Republicans quickly devolving into shame and resentment and a thirst for revenge, not unlike the way the Russians have felt since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

And so, no, Trump does not really represent a “new leaf” for the Republicans, he really represents the natural continuation of the Republican collapse, calling for a return to imaginary happier times when America was feared throughout the world, just as Putin seems to do for the return to the glory days of the Soviets.

I actually do understand what President Obama is telling us about giving the guy a chance, but the big dilemma facing the Democratic opposition right now is, do we take the high road by cooperating with the jerks, all in the name of maybe getting some of the things done that we both agree need to get done? Or doesn't that just legitimize the behavior of any future asshole presidential-wannabes?

After all, shouldn't Republicans be punished for shutting down Obama, and isn’t the best way to do that to do to them what they did to us when Obama took office? And first and foremost, shouldn’t we refuse to confirm any Republican Supreme Court nominee unless it’s Merrick Garland, the one Obama picked in the first place?

“We’re going to confirm the president’s nominee one way or the other. And there’s an easy way and there’s a hard way,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). “They just need to accept that reality.” 
“The Democrats will not succeed in filibustering a Supreme Court nominee,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, Cornyn’s Texas colleague. “We are going to confirm President Trump’s conservative Supreme Court justices.” 
Both Senate leaders, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have been mum on the topic. But the debate over whether the supermajority requirement for Supreme Court nominations will disappear is raging in the Democratic and Republican caucuses. 
Democrats start from a position of weakness — but with pent-up rage over how McConnell treated President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, who was nominated in February but never got a hearing.
The trick for the Democrats would be to block discussion of any other presidential appointment with a filibuster, and that assumes that GOP leaders would need more than 60 votes to squash the maneuver. But the trick for the Republicans would be to change the rules to a simple majority vote instead of a supermajority, effectively getting rid of the filibuster.

This, of course, would take away just about any power of a minority party to do anything in government, something the Republicans say is the Democrats fault, tracing it back to 2013, when the Democrats, in frustration over the Republicans blocking essentially every Obama appointment to the lower courts, invoked the “nuclear option”:
"I've sat on the Judiciary (Committee) for 20 years and it has never, ever been like this. You reach a point where your frustration just overwhelms and things have to change," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who had previously opposed efforts to change filibuster rules but voted with Reid on Thursday. "I think the level of frustration on the Democratic side has just reached the point where it's worth the risk."
But Republicans back then warned of the danger in changing the rule:
Republicans warned that it would not only tear apart cross-party relationships in the Senate, but it will come back to haunt Democrats if they return to the minority. "You will no doubt come to regret this, and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned Democrats. … 
President Obama and Vice President Biden, both former senators, applauded Reid's decision. "A deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything, no matter what the merits, just to re-fight the result of an election is not normal, and for the sake of future generations, we can't let it become normal," Obama said Thursday.
But obstructing Obama on everything continued to be the norm, and now, with the Democrats being about as far into the minority as a party can get, the shoe is on the other foot. 

But there is still hope:
Under current rules, it’s tremendously difficult for a party to push through controversial legislation with such a small majority. The vast majority of bills and Supreme Court appointments still require 60 votes to beat a filibuster, meaning at least eight Democrats would have to be won over to get any of these through — a tall order indeed. 
Then all other presidential appointments and “budget reconciliation” bills require at least 50 votes to let Vice President Mike Pence break the tie and move them forward. This could be done with purely Republican votes, but it would be no picnic. If the Democrats remain united in resistance, it would only take three Republican defectors to kill any controversial bill or appointment. That’s not much room for error. ... 
And, yes, Republicans might well calculate that Trump’s success is what’s best for their party as a whole and therefore their own political futures. It’s also certainly possible that they’ll eliminate what’s left of the filibuster, either for Supreme Court appointments, legislation, or both, making Democratic resistance irrelevant. 
But the future is uncertain, and we don’t know whether this will happen just yet. As of now, the Senate is the chamber best positioned to resist a Trump presidency — if its members so choose. The main question going forward is whether enough of them will make that choice, and the answer will be enormously consequential for how Trump’s administration plays out.
It’s weird to think how the whole world can change on a dime. Two weeks ago, we were confidently speculating on what our new Senate majority might do to help advance President Clinton’s agenda, and now, we’re just trying to figure out how to do anything at all to keep her out of jail.

And it's not just her! Soon, we may all be working on keeping ourselves out of jail.

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