Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rewarding idiocy

Great column by Michael Kinsley taking on the charge that liberals are condescending to conservatives.

Everybody thinks what they believe is correct or else they would not believe it. Likewise, they will also believe that anybody who disagrees with them is incorrect and there are three possible reasons why (assuming they REALLY are correct and ther other person is mistaken) and those are:

"...that they are misinformed, they are thinking poorly, or they are blinded by self-interest. Or, to put it crudely, they are ignorant, stupid or selfish."

Of course, "ignorant, stupid and selfish" are the terms that first come to my mind when arguing with wingnuts, so does that make me condescending?

Moving on...

Steve Benen makes a point today that fits in well on this topic about the general public's tendency to reward idiocy...

By most measures, Republicans have spent the last year acting like children -- reckless, disturbed children who fiddle with matches and take pleasure in playing in traffic.

For nearly 13 months, GOP officials on the Hill have engaged in unprecedented abuse of the political process, blocking good legislation, offering insane ideas to major national challenges, rejected their own ideas when embraced by Democrats, and generally being an embarrassment to themselves and the country.

Naturally, then, Republicans are making major gains in the polls.

Republicans have significantly narrowed the gap with Democrats on who is trusted to deal with the country's problems and have sharply reduced several of President Obama's main political advantages, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey paints a portrait of a restless and dissatisfied electorate at the beginning of a critical election year. More than seven in 10 Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, and as many say they're inclined to look for new congressional representation as said so in 1994 and 2006, the last times that control of Congress shifted.

Asked how they would vote in the November House elections, Americans split evenly -- 46 percent siding with the Democrats, 46 percent with the Republicans. As recently as four months ago, Democrats held a 51 to 39 percent advantage on this question.

Dems still enjoy an edge on problem solving, but the margin has shrunk considerably. When asked, "Overall, which party, the Democrats or the Republicans, do you trust to do a better job in coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years?" respondents preferred Dems, 43% to 37%. It's the closest margin in four years.

President Obama is still more trusted than the GOP to handle every polled area of public policy -- the economy, health care, budget deficit, combating terrorism, and creating jobs -- but the president's lead over Republicans is the smallest it's been since he took office.

Reality should suggest the opposite. As Republicans grow more irresponsible, and become less coherent, their numbers should drop. But as the economy continues to struggle, and congressional Dems prove unable to govern in the face of obstructionism at levels unseen in American history, the public has soured on those trying to clean up the messes Republicans left in the wake of the Bush/Cheney fiasco.

But let's be clear: literally the only way for Republicans to shake off their madness and grow up would be for them to face an intense backlash from the public. Poll results like these send the opposite signal -- Americans are encouraging the GOP to keep up the bad work.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Senate not bound by past screwups

This story in the WaPo today scared me because it seems to say that the only way the Senate can change its rules is by a supermajority vote...

Under long-standing resolutions, the Senate considers itself to be a "continuing body" whose parliamentary rules remain in effect unless a two-thirds supermajority votes to change them.
The more authoritarian House, whose entire membership stands for election every two years, sets its rules at the start of each Congress by a majority vote.

Based on that I feared the worst. If that is the case, then we are screwed and have no way to fix our broken Senate and our dysfunctional government. In other words, we are going to go the way of the the Polish legislature, the Sejm, as Paul Krugman warned today.

But then with a little more research, that the WaPo reporter obviously did not do, I was reassured that such is not the case...

From Wikipedia:
In 1892, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Ballin that both houses of Congress are parliamentary bodies, implying that they may make procedural rules by majority vote. In 1917, Senator John J. Walsh contended the majority of the Senate could revise a procedural rule at any time, despite the requirement of the Senate rules that a two-thirds majority is necessary to approve a rule change. "When the Constitution says, 'Each House may determine its rules of proceedings,' it means that each House may, by a majority vote, a quorum present, determine its rules," Walsh told the Senate. Opponents countered that Walsh's "Constitutional option" would lead to procedural chaos, but his argument was a key factor in the adoption of the first cloture rule later that year. In 1957, Vice President Richard Nixon issued an advisory opinion stating that no Senate may constitutionally enact a rule that deprives a future Senate of the right to approve its own rules by the vote of a simple majority.[5] Nixon's advisory opinion, along with similar opinions by Hubert Humphrey and Nelson Rockefeller, has been cited as precedent to support the view that the Senate may amend its rules at the beginning of the session with a simple majority vote.

So, thank God there is a precedent for the Senate to still sets its own rules by majority rule. Now we just need to hope there will be enough Democrats left standing after the mid-term elections who will vote to change the rules at the start of the next session.