Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Response to The Real Loss Now

(See: Just above Sunset : The Real Loss Now)

The following little tale was written for Huffington Post by Aaron E. CarrollDirector of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research:

The fable, as it is told, involves a scorpion and a frog. 

The scorpion needs to cross a river, so he asks the frog to carry him on his back. The frog is skeptical; after all, scorpions kill.

The scorpion calms the frog, explaining that if he stung him on the swim across, they would both die. Therefore, the frog can be assured the scorpion will do no such thing.

“Trust me,” says the scorpion. “We’re in this together.”

Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. As the frog seizes up and they both begin to sink, the frog croaks, “Why?”

“I am a scorpion.  It is my nature.”

This is not a morality tale. It is a parable about the nature of things. The scorpion isn’t evil any more than the frog is good.  But the frog ignores what the scorpion is at its peril.

We, as a country, are in trouble.  If we don’t find our way out of this mess, the stability of the United States is in danger.

Although one might assume the dangerous mess Carroll was talking about was the Supreme Court mess, it wasn’t. This was published back in early 2010, and it had to do with health care, including the rising cost of prescription drugs.

But you could be forgiven if you thought it was about a sincere Lindsey Graham, at that Senate hearing in 2016, asking us to trust him:

"I want you to use my words against me. If there's a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”

That was Graham back then, this is him now:

“We have the votes.”

Short and sweet and to the point. The only thing he should have added is, “Hey, we’re Republicans! It’s in our nature! It’s the Democrat's fault for trusting us!"

If I could go back in time — but assuming if I did that, I could get Mitch McConnell’s ear — I would advise him not to use any silly "moral argument” for refusing to bring the president's nominee for a vote, that we should let the American people have a say in the next SCOTUS justice. Yes, that might make sense to some people, all Republicans, but maybe not as many as there would be voters four years later who would want to punish him for his hypocrisy, with their votes.

In other words, it might hurt him more later than help him back then.

Instead, he should simply have said, “We are doing this because we can. We’re doing this because nowhere in the rules does it say we can’t.

He might even suggest the possibility that the Democrats might themselves consider using it against a Republican president some day, if the opportunity presents itself.

You might think that would go over worse than the sanctimonious and pretentious case he actually made back then, but I don’t think so. I would think many, from all sides, might admire his no-nonsense honesty.

(Okay, let’s forget that word “admire”. It just seems out of place when referring to Mitch McConnell. But I hope you see my point.)

The truth is, the principle here is not a moral one, it’s a pragmatic one. You do what you need to do when the opportunity arises. It’s like “Jeopardy James” 
Holzhauer, who defied the tradition of choosing the first “answer” in a category, instead going for the higher value last question. If you find a smarter way to play the game than the way everybody else plays it, you go for it, even if it means breaking custom.

In truth, we Democrats might find it smart to be on the lookout for opportunities to block a Republican president’s nominee coming up for a vote, and maybe not even wait for the end of his term.

Where does it say you can't refuse to hold a vote at any point — maybe the beginning, maybe the middle, at any time in the presidential term you want to, as long as you have the votes? After all, as the other side has shown us, if’s not really cheating if there’s nothing in the rules to rule it out.

But, you may be asking, won’t this just add to the disfunction of the government, setting a precedent that the other side will find a chance to use that against us some day?

Unfortunately, yes, it would, and that would be a shame.

After all, as I often get caught saying, the founders created a system of government that would rely on an honor system, one that presumed their descendants would be honorable and intelligent enough to understand that, if they were to abandon their sense of honor, the whole project would go down the toilet (which, you have to admit, was quite prescient of them, since the toilet hadn't even been invented yet.)

Don’t believe me about the honor system? Then answer me this: 
How many years in jail do you get for violating the Constitution?

So the real problem when it comes to our constitution is, we have wandered a ways out of bounds and don’t know how to get back to where we belong.

In fact, I would argue that, whether they know it yet or not, the Republicans may not even want to go back, stuck with a leader who is growing tired of the American system, as too inefficient and possibly too forgiving of citizens who can’t — or, as he probably thinks, won’t — pull their weight, and recently seems to be toying with the idea of abandoning small-d democratic ideals altogether. I would say, without fear of contradiction, that he really would like to be the American Putin.

You know, there have always been right-wingers warning us that the commies will somehow take over America, I think probably championing movies like the 1984 flick “Red Dawn”, about a group of high school kids fighting back, described here in Wikipedia:

The United States has become strategically isolated after NATO is completely disbanded. [Sound familiar?] At the same time, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies aggressively expand their sphere of influence. ...

On a September morning, in the small town of Calumet, Colorado, a local high school teacher pauses when he sees Soviet troops parachuting from An-12 transport aircraft landing in a nearby field…

An alt-right daydream, of course! (Hey, I need to get me an AK-47 and plenty of ammo, just in case we get lucky!)

My answer to this was always, not gonna happen! For one thing, it wouldn't even get started, since virtually nobody here would welcome them, and everybody would fight back. No enemy would even bother trying. They’d know better.

That was before I found myself saying that Trump could never get anywhere as president. For one thing, the Republicans themselves hate him so much, they would probably impeach him before Christmas of his first year.

But then we all watched, and saw how it might start, right before our eyes on cable news.

So who to blame for where we are today?

Probably too many to list, but I might start with Newt Gingrich, who got the disintegration started by teaching the not-unwilling Republican politicians how to insult and denigrate, and to their glee, annihilate their rivals in congress.

Or maybe go back even before that, probably to Nixon.

If you’re old enough, you might remember that old custom of each party essentially rubber-stamping a president’s appointments, figuring he had a right to pick his own people, no matter how much his politics irked you.

Then one day, Reagan nominated Robert Bork for the Supreme Court, and partly because of his roll in Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre”, but maybe because he was such a flaming right-winger who, among other things, apparently hoped to roll back all civil rights gains, the senate simply refused to confirm him. From that time onward, you're getting “Borked” described getting done to you what the Democrats did to Bork.

And from that point on, when one congressperson referred to another as “my good friend”, it was often hissed through a scowl. The gloves came off. No more Mr. Nice Congress.

But if we’re looking for someone to blame for the latest Supreme Court kerfuffle, not to mention what seems will probably be conservative dominance in the Supreme Court for years to come?

Submitted for your consideration, the “Notorious” Justice Ruth!

She could have chosen to retire during the Obama administration, ensuring a Democrat in the seat, but instead, chose to place a bet on allowing herself, the second woman ever on the Supreme Court, be replaced by the soon-to-be first female president of the United States, which was, at that point, looking like a solid shoo-in.


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