A Near Miss


Matt Yglesias sees reality without actually quite seeing it:

Meanwhile, the geography of the 2010 Senate races is also highly favorable to the Democrats. And given the contrast between ironclad discipline on the GOP side and the “anything goes” attitude on the Democratic side, it looks like for a while yet we may be in a California-style dynamic where Republicans can’t win elections but Democrats can’t actually pass a governing agenda.

See, there?  That whole “ironclad discipline” vs. “anything goes” contrast?  There’s your problem.  That’s why “it looks like for a while yet we may be in a California-style dynamic where Republicans can’t win elections but Democrats can’t actually pass a governing agenda.”

Note, too, that Yglesias agrees with me that, contra Klein, there’s nothing about the senate rules that makes it inherently less amenable to discipline, as the GOP has been proving for a very long time, now, as both a majority and a minority.  It just takes leadership from the top, and pressure from below.  Republicans get the latter from talk radio and Fox News.  Dems should be getting it from superstar bloggers like Yglesias and Klein.

Yet five will get you ten that within 24 hours Yglesias repeats his claim that the problem is the system, not the people.

One more time: when there’s no price to be paid for breaking with your caucus, because your leadership won’t inflict one and progressive opinion shapers are giving you a pass by blaming the system, why not go off the farm?  The mainstream media love you because you look like a moderate and a Very Serious Person.  You get more leverage and therefore more control over the content of legislation and the president’s ongoing agenda.  The voters back home think you’re a stand-up guy or gal, voting what you think is right (or what is best for the home folks) instead of the party line.

Unless you represent a thoroughly liberal state (or district), of course you’re going to buck your party’s agenda.

Let me say I’m not arguing that  Dems should be forced to vote in total lockstep 100% of the time the way Republicans are.  We’ve seen what that got them; on the other hand, before they cratered, that discipline got them just about everything they wanted.  So I am arguing that on the Democratic Party’s biggest, most important, most desired, highest-profile agenda items, yes, you’ve got to be willing enforce some friggin’ discipline.


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3 Responses to “A Near Miss”

  1. jazzbumpa Says:

    I’ll save M.Y. the trouble. While many of the people in the system are wankers, the system is the root of the problem.

    I really don’t think Republican discipline represents a useful working model. While the democrats are not of one mind, the Republicans are of one mindlessness.

  2. urbino Says:

    We’re just going to have to disagree on this one, jb. I don’t claim our system works perfectly. In fact, I think it has some serious structural problems. But the anti-majoritarian features of the senate don’t stand out among them, and aren’t causing the current problems.

    If the filibuster rule didn’t exist or if senate seats were apportioned by population, Max Baucus and Harry Reid would still be Finance chair and [probably] majority leader, and since both of them suffer from the political equivalent of Battered Spouse Syndrome, health care reform would still be stalled in the Finance Committee.

    There would be more Dems and fewer Republicans in the senate if seats were proportional to population, sure, but I don’t see how that would make a difference in this case. The Dems already have enough seats to invoke cloture; they’re just not disciplined enough to do it. Democratic presidents and congressional leaders have gotten much more controversial bills than this passed, and with smaller majorities and filibuster rules that required 67 votes to overcome.

    Besides, Baucus isn’t stalling because he’s worried about cloture. He’s stalling because he wants some GOP votes. For whatever reason, he values that more than getting a health care reform bill passed.

  3. uydu kurulumu ankara Says:

    It got to read all kinds of issues

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