Posted by: JanF | November 25, 2013

Why Democrats should not fear “Majority Rules”

Last Thursday, Senate Democrats voted to remove the threat of filibuster from most judicial and executive branch confirmations.

Essentially, they said that the majority has the right to govern as a majority. Small-d democracy finally being applied to the Senate which has been in the hands of Big-D Democrats for the last 7 years.

The showdown that led to this rule change was remarkable in it’s blatant disregard for the Constitution of the United States. Senate Republicans were attempting to nullify the law that had established that the DC appeals court would have 11 judges presiding. The Republicans did not put forward and pass a bill to change the number of judges: they blocked the Senate from voting on the confirmation of the three judges needed to fill the court’s vacancies.

The Washington press corps and their sycophants in the punditry were quick to issue warnings about how terrible this would be: for Democrats. The Friday news cycle was filled with scare stories: “Democrats will pay the price”, “Harry Reid’s blunder”, “Democratic overreach will come back to haunt them”, “You did it: more Scalias for you!”, “No filibuster means more rapes!!”.

Of course, as is often the case, the woe-is-you’ers were completely missing the point and 100% wrong.

There is nothing scary about the majority setting the rules when the minority is shrinking itself to be small enough to fit in Grover Norquist’s coat pocket.

We needn’t fear the retribution from the Republicans should they regain power.

First, if this batch of Republicans were to regain power, does anyone doubt that they would have changed the rules anyway?

Second, this batch of Republicans can’t regain power: the American people despises them. They can win their gerrymandered House districts for now. They won some statewide races in places they have no business winning in a low turnout backlash election in 2010. But they will have an uphill battle winning statewide elections in Obama states if they insist on running on the tea party platform. And they will never win a national election on it. The number of people who embrace the puniness of their vision for America is shrinking, not expanding.

So, sure, Republicans may some day win the White House. They might even win both the Senate and the White House. But they would have to be Reasonable Republicans who would, by definition, be capable of being reasoned with. And there is no quick path to reasonableness as the evidence suggests that they are moving right, not left. The 2016 election cycle will be a bloodbath for them electorally when the bill comes due for the damage that the 2010 Senate class did to America and yet another Republican governor who has to run to the right in the primaries will get crushed when he tries to Etch-a-Sketch away his words. The Republican Party will need to not just rebrand itself but remake itself. To appeal to a majority of Americans, it will have to be a party that wants to share in governance, not obstruct.

Elections should have consequences:
Eugene Robinson

If Republicans want to appoint more judges they should win more presidential elections.

Scott Lemieux

But that’s democracy—people who win elections should be able to govern. Democrats should be confident about their ability, over time, to triumph at the ballot box.

Dave Weigel in Slate describes the “risk”:

They’re trading something that might have brought “consensus” for something that empowers the party that wins elections.

– Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

“Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, it’s important not to vote for people who proudly say they will never compromise.”

Voters will reject those who shut down the government, threaten the full faith and credit of the United States, and refuse to pass laws that the American people want.

The new rules may not prove to be enough to actually achieve the goal of governing. The threat of another rule change may hang like a Damocles sword over Senate obstructionism should a Supreme Court opening arise … or it could be that people will insist that we have up or down votes for legislation also, putting House Republicans on the spot to have to defend their votes in next year’s elections.

In the meantime, President Obama will be able to establish his judicial legacy as he fills the 93 vacancies pending on the federal courts. And THAT is a Big Huge Deal.

Democrats should not fear the majority making rules. If we vote, and get others who think like us to vote, we will be in the majority for a long time.

Elections Matter. And when we vote we win … and we earn the right to govern.

(Crossposted to The Motley Moose)

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