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Political Animal


By Brian Morton | Posted 1/27/2010

Is it any wonder how George W. Bush was able to roll congressional Democrats for eight years? (No--not just six, all eight. Speaker Nancy Pelosi immediately taking impeachment off the table was the first sign that the Democrats took all the bullets out of the gun.) If the Democrats in the House of Representatives can't even muster the gumption to pass the Senate health-care bill and send it on to the president, then they deserve to be slaughtered electorally in November.

For years, at any triumph for liberals, bloggers on the left would sarcastically say, "This is great news! For Republicans!" This occurred because the national media would instantly portray it as such, and because the general character of the GOP is anger. At every setback, Republicans return twice as mean, and twice as firm in their resolve to get what they want. If it means throwing opponents out of committee rooms or complaining when they only get 95 percent of what they want, that's what they do--and did, from 2001 to November 2006.

When Republicans in Texas couldn't muster a quorum to redistrict in their favor in mid-decade, they commandeered state troopers and even summoned the Federal Aviation Administration to drag back Democrats who left town in a small plane to prevent it. When the GOP lost a stunning number of seats in both the House and the Senate in 2008, they brought all business to a halt, holding up hundreds of nominees on picayune objections and personal holds, and subjected all business to a supermajority vote. And they then blamed the Democrats for not being able to remove the wrench they've firmly jammed into the machinery--while still standing on the handle.

Congressional Democrats, on the other hand, take one hard shot to the jaw and go crying back to their room, thinking that maybe if they appease the bully he'll quit beating them up for their lunch money. If the situation were reversed, does anyone doubt that the GOP would have pulled the trigger on "the nuclear option" and rewritten the rules of the Senate to eliminate the filibuster by now? Anyone? A headline last week in the Village Voice sums it up like nothing else: "Scott Brown Wins Mass. Race, Giving GOP 41-59 Majority in the Senate."

Look at it this way: If the Dixiecrats of the late 1950s and most of the 1960s (the progenitors of today's super-ideological Republicans) behaved this way, this writer would have attended segregated schools for most of his life, the Earl Warren Supreme Court be damned.

Speaking of which, with the decision by the Roberts court that corporations now have the same free speech rights as individuals, the end product of the Bush v. Gore decision in 2000 has finally fallen into place. Even though unions will now be able to spend freely in election campaigns, they'll always be outgunned by the massive onslaught of corporate money now available to be poured into the campaigns of those who favor the rich and powerful. Between a now-cowed Democratic Party (which didn't have the nerve to try and push the Employee Free Choice Act, even with majorities in the House and the Senate) and the new fiscal power of big business in election campaigns, even an Obama-controlled Department of Labor won't be able to keep pro-union forces from having to fight on the defensive.

And if you want to take this to its natural conclusion, should one of the five members of the narrow conservative Supreme Court majority have to retire during the Obama presidency, it may make the Senate fight over a health-care bill look like polite conversation at a ladies' afternoon tea. All the conservatives who were willing to blow up Senate tradition when George Bush didn't get any and all of his nominees to the federal bench subjected to a simple majority "up-or-down vote" (because, of course, they had more than 50 votes) will become stricken with amnesia, and all Senate business will immediately grind to a full and complete stop. Never underestimate the willingness of the far Right to go as far as necessary to deny even a moderate liberal like Obama his choice if it means that the balance of power would shift even slightly to the Left.

Back in 1991, when the Rehnquist court overturned a decision that was only four years old, Thurgood Marshall wrote that "Power, not reason, is the new currency of this Court's decision making." Little did he know that in 2010, that statement would not only cover the direction of the court, but the overall atmosphere in Washington. Sheer, brute power, wielded with little concern for tradition (such as in the Senate) or precedent (in the court) on behalf of the powerful has become the rule. And until President Obama and his feckless allies on Capitol Hill realize this and finally seize the reins, they'll continue to be rolled as if George Bush still was putting his feet up on the desk in the Oval Office. ?

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The Fix (8/4/2010)

Police State (7/7/2010)

Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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