Unity or Bust

Joe Biden’s inauguration speech, compared to Lincoln’s by some guy named “Wolf” on CNN, emphasized unity. Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett, who sucks on lemons for pleasure, pointed out that unity was not a core American value like freedom, to which former DNC chairwoman and cheat Donna Brazile replied that unity just meant civility.

None of this matters. If by unity, Biden meant stop hating each other, engaging in violence to achieve political ends and doing everything possible to vilify the other side, is there really anything to complain about it? But if by unity, Biden meant seek common ground, then he was being disingenuous. He asked us to hear him out, then signed a flurry of Executive Orders without saying a word as to why, not making any effort to explain, to persuade, to at least inform people why. This isn’t to say that the EOs were bad or wrong, but that you can’t call for unity while signing it away.

But some of the most controversial changes must come from Congress, despite a president’s best efforts to “reimagine” a nation by unilateral executive fiat and unreviewed bureaucratic dictates. Even though the Democrats have slim majorities in both houses, courtesy of Trump and his enablers, there remains one road block to flexing their legislative muscles. The filibuster.

Jamelle Bouie asked on the twitters, “want the courts to stay in their lane? want the executive to have less reach and discretion? then you should want a strong, active Congress.” “I do,” I replied. But he wasn’t really asking whether we should have a functional Congress, but for the elimination of the filibuster.

anyway there are a lot of reasons the filibuster should be abolished, but my preferred ones are a) if the public elects a majority to govern, that majority should be able to govern & b) endless senate gridlock has effectively broken congress & undermined the constitutional order

He’s not wrong about either, ignoring that his perspective was decidedly different when the Republicans owned Congress, but the legislative filibuster remains intact, meaning that the minority party, now the Republicans, can pretend to filibuster (it used to require someone actually reading from the telephone book for days on end when there used to be telephone books) and require 60 votes for cloture, to end the filibuster and bring the law to an up or down vote won by a simple majority.

There is, theoretically, a 51-50 Democratic majority in the Senate. The Republicans earned this spanking the hard way, by being the worst they could possibly be. This isn’t just about backing Trump’s lies, but refusing to work with the Democrats to find common ground, to reach consensus and to enact laws the nation needed and wanted. Congress was paralyzed because the Senate became a zero-sum game.

Even though the Republicans are now the minority party in Congress, the filibuster remains to prevent the majority from riding roughshod over the minority, and to compel the majority to seek senators of good will to put nation over party by moderating their most extreme demands or horse-trading for their vote. Of course, it only works if the minority party has senators of good will or horse-traders. This is why the elimination of the filibuster is the first order of business.

But none of these bills will pass a Senate in which the filibuster forces 60-vote supermajorities on routine legislation. And that clarifies the real question Democrats face. They have plenty of ideas that could improve people’s lives and strengthen democracy. But they have, repeatedly, proven themselves more committed to preserving the status quo of the political system than fulfilling their promises to voters. They have preferred the false peace of decorum to the true progress of democracy. If they choose that path again, they will lose their majority in 2022, and they will deserve it.

Ezra Klein, recently of his baby Vox before it went too rogue even for his tastes, recognizes that the long list of Democratic changes in the name of progress will be stymied in the Senate if the filibuster remains in effect and the Republicans persist in their scorched earth policy of refusing to cooperate on anything ever.

Klein’s argument, that the Dems have “plenty of ideas that could improve people’s lives” is a bit shallow  and partisan. These ideas could help, but could also do enormous damage to people’s lives. The thought process is that while the Republicans have never shied from unified willingness to use their power as shamelessly as possible, there is a broad enough spectrum of opinion among the Democrats that they cannot agree to abuse their clout to achieve their ends. As the left wing of the party forced the Overton Window to the edge, this is more true today than ever. Even worse, progressive demands for a plethora of freebies and the reimagination of racism are just as unabashedly zero-sum game policies, even if most of their supporters are too simplistic to grasp why.

Without the filibuster, the pressure on moderate Democrats will be enormous, perhaps even overwhelming, to vote in favor of paradigm shifts that they neither approve of nor believe will be beneficial. Even worse, to take these monumental steps to “rebuild better” will be to further harm and alienate a large portion of the citizenry. At the same time, the most progressive members of the Democratic Party in Congress believe they now have a mandate, slim margins notwithstanding, to make their every dream come true. And, to be fair, they believe this is the right thing to do and the best thing for America.

Where the new president stands on this issue of the filibuster is unclear. It may be that he anticipated a two vote Republican majority in the Senate, where he could use his personal good will to push through his priorities by prevailing upon his former colleagues to compromise just a bit. At the same time, he could pretend to pander to his hard left wing, which only pretends to tolerate him, while knowing that their radical plans would never happen. But now that Trump blew the deal, the only thing protecting a moderate Biden from his own party crazies is the filibuster.

Like Jamelle Bouie, I want a functioning Senate, meaning a Senate where two parties can find common ground, see problems that need fixing and find a way to fix them that everyone can live with. I don’t want the courts or the president to make legislative decisions by force. But this would require good will, intelligence and putting nation over party in Congress. Until that happens, at least we still have the filibuster to prevent the tyranny of the majority or minority. Maybe that’s what Joe Biden meant by unity.

33 thoughts on “Unity or Bust

  1. B. McLeod

    That he gave the “unity” speech while the Capitol was under military occupation to protect against voices from the Internet was a sign of its value. Also note that even the military muscle had to be vetted for loyalty. Twelve soldiers called to duty for the detail had to be screened back out of the Liebstandarte SS Joseph Biden because their personal loyalties were deemed to be suspect. To the extent there is anything but sophistry in the call for “unity,” it lies in the concept of “unity” in the context of the Democratic aspiration to achieve one people, one party, one homeland and one leader. It falls to all of us to think the correct thoughts so this unity may be brought to fruition.

    1. SHG Post author

      Under most circumstances, military presence would be disturbing. It wasn’t under these circumstances. Not at all.

      1. B. McLeod

        It should have been, and still should be. Stirring up hysteria and then resorting to off-the-charts emergency measures in response is an old tactic that has been the death of many a republic. Vetting individual soldiers for their personal political beliefs is also a danger sign of the highest magnitude.

        1. Rengit

          I don’t care for your first post for reasons other have stated and didn’t mind the military presence given what happened two weeks ago, but will agree that vetting soldiers is third-world stuff. Unless they really did find a specific assassination plot (which they should present evidence of if so), treating soldiers as suspects that might kill Biden because they posted pro-Trump memes or wore a MAGA hat is the type of thing I’d expect in places like Lebanon or Guatemala, and it inherently politicizes the military by conflating an oath to defend the Constitution and America with personal loyalty to the President and his party currently in power, no matter what the concerns are about “security”.

          Hopefully it all really was just for show so that the partisans on Twitter could collect tens, hundreds of thousands of likes for sharing such news, but if this trend continues where pro-Trump or anti-Biden soldiers are treated, or even just told that they will be treated either directly or indirectly by leaking such vetting to news outlets, as potential threats and turncoats, then our military is really going to suffer; a functioning military requires trust and cohesion, not fear, innuendo, and paranoia. Trump was wrong to talk about “my generals”, so we shouldn’t let this trend of “my soldiers, their soldiers” continue.

          1. Jake

            I’m sure you can understand why officials would not publicly share details of a specific plot. Beyond a very small group of people, and for very good reason, the rest of us are left to speculate.

            Per the rules of the internet, speculation and partisanship are inseparable themes.

            1. Rengit

              I can understand why they would not publicly share details, for a variety of reasons ranging from innocent to nefarious, but I can also understand why they would publicly share details: sunlight and all that.

      2. Hal

        Scott,

        I beg to differ. The presence of the Nat’l Guard may have been necessary, but it was still disturbing.

        1. Hunting Guy

          The function of the military is to break things and kill people.

          Using them as a show of force to the people that didn’t vote for Biden is beyond the pale.

          And only 12? Many, many more than that. They just keep their mouth shut and stay off social media.

          However, thankfully we have a professional military that obeyed the orders of the civilian leaders, no matter how personally distasteful.

      3. Pedantic Grammar Police

        The hyperventilating about “insurrection” is partisan nonsense. I was there, and I saw what happened. A crowd of farmers, small businessmen and workers protested at the Capitol. A few provocateurs urged them to light fires and were ignored. The Capitol police opened the doors and let people in. Those doors are designed to resist a siege; they would have been nearly impossible to force open. A few people broke windows, and a few idiots stole things, but the vast majority came in through the open doors, and then acted like tourists, staying between the velvet ropes, taking selfies with the police, and leaving peacefully. Unlike the “mostly peaceful” protests this summer, nothing was burned and no serious damage was done.

        Some of the provocateurs did outrageous things, and MSM cameras were magically there to capture those things and create a fake story. If you watch the real videos from real people who were there, you see a different story.

        1. SHG Post author

          I posted your comment against my better judgment. This is a confession of a crime. Have you learned nothing here? If you ask, I will take this down, but if you prefer to risk prosecution for the sake of a comment that is nowhere near as persuasive to me as it is to you, I will let you live with the consequences. Your call.

          1. Pedantic Grammar Police

            I didn’t break any laws, nor did the vast majority of the people who were there.. Those who are being criminally charged are the ones who went in through windows, stole things, broke things or attacked the police. I was on the side where the doors were not open, and my videos clearly show provocateurs exhorting the crowd to attack the police, breaking windows and inviting people to enter through them, etc., and the vast majority of the crowd ignoring or opposing them.

            1. PseudonymousKid

              Pops indicated you probably shouldn’t have said any of this and then you double down. Please stop. Consider his offer a little more. Or better yet, lawyer up and have him/her tell you to STFU. This is so stupid you have me being nice and caring. I resent that.

  2. B. McLeod

    Another stellar display of “unity” was in the press this morning. When His Nibs and the Mrs. arrived at the door to the White House, they were left standing outside in the cold. Biden aides apparently wanted to avoid the affront of His Nibs being welcomed by a Trumpist chief usher, and so had hurriedly obtained the man’s discharge from the post some five hours before. This new unity actually looks a lot like ongoing partisan rancor, but maybe not everybody got the memo.

      1. B. McLeod

        Being as I haven’t rushed to fire anybody for their political affiliations, I would say obviously not.

  3. Noel Erinjeri

    A Modest Proposal: keep the filibuster, but the side invoking actually has to do the work of standing in the well 24/7. Right now, declaring a filibuster is like Michael Scott declaring bankruptcy…except it works.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuZeff2y32M

    [Note to Mean-Ass Editor: delete the link if you must]

    NE

  4. miketrials

    Scott
    Mayhaps the “unity” proposed by the Prez amounts in the first instance to nothing more than an acknowledgement the divergence between facts and opinion (aka “alternative facts”) ? It would be a small start, but nonetheless a step in the right direction, to recognize that there was no vote fraud that impinged in any way upon the Democratic victory anywhere, except perhaps to diminish the margins, that the Prez is the duly and properly elected head of our government (like W), and that Q-Anon is, well, certifiably loony. You know, let’s no longer argue about that stuff which is just plain true — like gravity.

    B.McLeod’s likening of the National Guard to Leibstandarte is beneath contempt, and demonstrates much about him. Not even the NG at Kent State deserves that. The conduct of the Waffen SS was so bad (as usual) that even the Canadians, perhaps God’s nicest people, shot their prisoners in Normandy out of hand. B needs to Google “Malmedy.” He might learn something.

    1. SHG Post author

      If “unity” means come together around my reality, that’s not going to help ameliorate a nation divided. But I don’t think that’s what he meant.

      As for BM, he made his bed.

    2. B. McLeod

      I expect my familiarity with history goes well beyond yours. Certainly enough to know that our military tradition is not to have political party units, nor units whose members have been vetted for personal loyalty to a particular party or leader.

      1. miketrials

        You would expect very wrong. Very, very …, oh let’s just stop. Try “Ouradour” since Malmedy was insufficient. Stupid is as stupid does.

        And no, we only vet for loyalty to the Constitution, the one at least Judge K and Scott and I took an oath to uphold (dunno who else here is an attorney, and I won’t assume). Didn’t The WV Legislator and the Two Cops From VA do so as well? Not to mention many of the rest of the insurrectionists who shared that brain fart? Is the oath somehow intermittent, and just not applicable when you get a chance to steal Nancy’s lectern or bash in a cop’s head? NPR reports 1 in 5 of those (seditious traitors) on Jan 6 served in the military. Is “no political military” really the ditch you want to die in? Google Clausewitz.

        The only thing funnier than your “expect” comment will be the upcoming encounter of a whole buncha indictees with the USSG. I’d rather be Wile E. Coyote. BOOM

      2. PseudonymousKid

        Comrade, I have to break rank with you. Our military tradition, from the perspective of a military brat whose family has served in every branch besides the Navy which wants to be a military unto itself, is one of apolitical service to the State. The election was certified as is tradition. Any order to disrupt the inauguration would be illegal. The inauguration had reason for extraordinary security. Those guardsmen/women who have been sympathetic to those who would oppose the lawful process should be excluded. You are going too far. We do not have Commissars yet. Take a deep breath. Everything operated as it should have.

  5. Erik H

    1) While I agree that the filibuster is a problem and I agree that things aren’t designed to be run only by supermajorities, this is obviously a power grab. The rule should be “change things only 8 years in advance.”

    If the Dems want to change it now, effective in 2029, without knowing who will be Pres or who will being Congress, that’s fair. If they want to do it just because they got the majority, that’s not fair.

    2) No matter what, as usual the public debate (not your post!) has a false dichotomy. “should it be 50 or 60%?” ignores things like “is there a number which would make more sense, perhaps between 50 and 60?”

    For example, limiting the filibuster to 55 might be enough to force moderation, perhaps, it’s not impossible by any means to get 4 R senators. Might still keep the uber-woke from going full speed to doomsville though.

    That said:

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Let’s be honest, for the last decade or so “bipartisan” means absolute submission to my tribe’s policies and positions.
    We have had months of Twitter blue checks calling for purges of Trump voters and re-education camps but suddenly they want to kiss and make up.

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