Game change

Jim DeMint just handed us a gift by threatening to block all legislation until adjournment. Harry Reid’s counter is obvious: refuse to adjourn until the people’s business gets done.

1. The Democrats need a game-changer, soon.
2. Their single biggest rhetorical failure has been their inability to make Republican obstruction the issue, so Democrats get blamed when Republicans succeed in blocking legislation.
3. Jim DeMint just announced that he would personally block any piece of legislation he dislikes, using the threat of a filibuster to make it impossible to act before the planned adjournment Thursday.

The obvious conclusion is that:

1. There is a God; and
2. He’s on the Democrats’ side, if they have the nerve and the wit to accept a gift from an enemy.

Harry Reid should announce that he’s not giving into obstructionist blackmail, name a few pieces of legislation – middle class tax cut, continuing resolution to keep the government funded, Defense authorization with the DREAM Act and DADT repeal – and a few confirmations as “must haves,” and say that he will not allow the Senate to adjourn until it has voted on each of his key items: not passed them, just voted on them. “We’re not here to campaign for re-election; we’re here to get the people’s business done. First things first. The Senate will not go on vacation until it’s done its work.”

That creates the kind of drama reporters love. And it would give the Dems a chance to make it clear who’s gumming up the works.

If only I believed that Reid had it in him.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

17 thoughts on “Game change”

  1. Indeed. "Ifs" don't come any bigger than this: "…if they have the nerve and the wit to accept a gift from an enemy."

  2. Harry Reid is such a poor excuse for a Democrat, and perhaps even for a human being, that were the stakes not so high I'd be rooting for Angle just to cleanse the Senate of him because the old boys club never will.

  3. I'm one of those people who sent around Mark Schmitt's article, The "Theory of Change" Primary, back in early 2008. I think Schmitt was right then and I think he still right:

    The reason the conservative power structure has been so dangerous, and is especially dangerous in opposition, is that it can operate almost entirely on bad faith. It thrives on protest, complaint, fear: higher taxes, you won't be able to choose your doctor, liberals coddle terrorists, etc. One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows.

    I'm upset because Obama, who won the primary largely because he understood where delegates come from better than Clinton, has had absolutely no response to the predictable obstruction from the Republicans. Where's the jujitsu? Where's the counterattack? Where's the constitutional hardball to get around the insanity of the Senate rules?

    Right now the Democrats are campaigning on "Give us two more years of saying 'we can't do anything because of the filibuster.'" No climate bill, no immigration bill, no education bill, nothing. Maybe Obama's strategy is to lose this election, wait fot the Republicans go apeshit in 2011 and remind America how insane they are, and come back strong in 2012. If so I wish he'd tell me. Then I wouldn't feel back about not giving Democrats any more money this year.

  4. I think DeMint is being quite reasonable from his perspective: If you're heading into an election where it looks like your party is going to take control of the legislature, why should you make it easy for the other party to enact bills THEY like, but you think are bad for the country? Especially when it comes to the lame duck session. If Republicans take control of one or both houses this fall, they should do essentially everything within their power to prevent anything from happening during a lame duck session. (One thing Sandy Levinson is right about: We need a constitutional amendment to abolish lame duck sessions.)

    And, of course, to the extent that this election IS going to lead to a change of the party in power, acting this way won't hurt the Republicans, because that implies that a majority of voters agree with the Republicans that the bills Democrats would attempt to pass are bad for the country.

    In fact, I would go so far as to say that the only reason you've got a shot at holding onto one or both chambers is that you HAVEN'T managed to enact some of your priorities, such as immigration 'reform', which are remarkably unpopular.

  5. You're missing a few things:

    1) Democrats aren't voting on the tax cuts because their caucus doesn't want to, not because the GOP is obstructing; emphasizing the middle class tax bill simply hurts the people they're trying to help by shelving it, i.e. their most vulnerable members. DADT repeal isn't going to help those guys either.

    2) Right now obstructing the Democratic agenda is pretty popular

    3) The Democrats need the time at home to campaign much more desperately than the GOP.

  6. McArgleBargle is correct for once. Even though polls show extending the middle class tax cuts and ending tax cuts to the Top-2% is extremely popular, many Democrats are inexplicably running from both. Her other points are just her opinion, for what that's worth.

  7. this is what you use as an argument for the existence of God? Arguments such as the cosmological, teleological, and ontological for the existence of God are unconvincing but a statement by Jim DeMint has convinced you? And not only are you convinced that there's a God but you believe that he takes sides with human establishments like political parties. A pretty crass view of the God that you are now convinced exists. Oh wait, you're just being rhetorical. I vote for more "reality based" and less rhetoric.

  8. And not only are you convinced that there’s a God but you believe that he takes sides with human establishments like political parties.

    This seems to be a common enough belief among Republicans. I trust you are equally critical of that.

  9. "Arguments such as the cosmological, teleological, and ontological for the existence of God are unconvincing"

    Unconvincing? You could use them as examples of the classic logical falacies. The Ontological argument, for instance, is nothing more than an example of the falacy of equivocation.

    But even so, they do make a bit more sense than this piece…

  10. Mark, I have to say that Mr. Bellmore and Ms. McArdle are seeing things quite a bit more clearly than you. Clearly Dems hope to achieve something by campaigning, so if they were to remain in Washington butting heads against a fillibuster, it would be tantamount to conceding their elections to their challengers, particularly in Mr. Reid's case by the way.

    So I will attribute your rant to the same desperation that seems to be infecting all of the American Left and acknowledge that it's tough to face an inevitable whipping, and give you a pass on that basis.

    As for the existence of God, Mr. Hawking may disagree with your conclusion, but assuming (s)he exists, I think a reasonable expectation would be that the Lord is very much an Independent.

  11. NOoooooo!!! On merit, the DREAM act is a worthwhile piece of policy which will affect countless young people, all of whom are likely to vote Dem for the rest of their lives. That said, now is not the time to stir up the immigration hawks within our own, fractious party. To publicly push for the DREAM act would be the equivalent of telling God, "No thanks, we got this." We don't, we need all the help we can get, and the DREAM Act is precisely the opposite. Bench 'em.

  12. Brett, admittedly I find the ontological argument less appealing and convincing than other arguments for the existence of God (my favorites are the moral argument, which I've reference many times on this site, and the cosmological argument). But you can't discount the ontological argument as a logical fallacy because there is no single ongological argument. Are you referring to the ontological argument in its classical formulation by Anselm of Canterbbury? Show me how whatever formulation of the ontological argument you are drawing upon commits the fallacy of equivocation.

  13. "Are you referring to the ontological argument in its classical formulation by Anselm of Canterbbury?"

    Yup, that's the version I'm most familiar with. It is of course true that a being which existed in fact is in SOME sense "greater" than one which is merely conceived of as having all the same characteristics, but conceiving of that being as actually existing scarcely implies that it DOES exist.

  14. I am glad to learn of your new found faith. However, I think you haven't quite figured this God guy out. I think it is clear that He is teasing us.

    The great question in US politics since Iran-Contra is "how are the Democrats going to blow this one ?" — Michael Kinsley 1987. It is quite clear that God is testing the Democrats. And with the Courage of Mohammad, the patience of Job, and the self sacrifice of Jesus, they have met each and every challenge. Even if there is no way, they will find a way (except for Clinton and Obama who clearly aren't real Democrats or else they would have found a way to lose and sometimes it takes them a year or six (74-80)).

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