Abusive conservatives and battered liberals

It is bad enough when 41 Senators block action supported by the other 59, but there is something worse – a single Senator blocking action supported by the other 99.

Senate procedures allow for up to 30 hours of debate on bill or appointment that comes before it, even with cloture.  Currently the Senate has before it more than 100 appointments and more than 350 bills passed by the House, most of them noncontroversial.  There aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week to debate all of these.  So routine, noncontroversial business requires “unanimous consent” to waive the rules.

In the past, Senators have sometimes refused unanimous consent – put a “hold” on a bill – when they have some objection to it.  But in the current Senate, the “hold” and other procedural technicalities are being used not because of specific objections, but for the purposes of obstruction and blackmail.

What surprises me is not so much that these abuses take place as that there is no outcry against them by the Democratic leadership.  The whole thing reminds me of the relationship of an abusive husband and a battered wife.  It takes two to maintain such a relationship, an abuser and an enabler who tolerates the abuse.  The battered wife keeps deluding herself that if she just finds the right approach, the abuse will stop.  But in fact it won’t until she finds a way to walk away from the relationship.

I have great sympathy for actual battered wives who are trapped in abusive relationships and see no way out, I agree there is a need for battered women’s shelters and other services, and I certainly do not blame the victim in such circumstances.   I do, however, blame the battered liberal Democrats who accept the abusive relationship.

Click on Ten Ways to Bring the Senate to Its Knees for an explanation of Senate procedures and their abuse.

Click on The Tyranny of the Timepiece for more explanation of Senate procedures and their abuse.

Click on The Senate as a collective action problem for a good analysis of the problem.

Click on Where Landreiu’s Loyalties Lie for an example of abuse of the “hold” power by a conservative Democrat.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Polish-Lithuanian Confederation was the largest nation in Europe, except for Russia, and a model of religious toleration and limited constitutional government.  The nation was undone, however, by a rule allowing any individual member of its Senate, the Sejm, to veto any action.  The Poles were unable to act to prevent the dismemberment of their nation by Russia, Prussia and Austria, and the nation ceased to exist in 1793.

If things go on as they are, the U.S. Senate will become the equivalent of the Sejm – a kind of Polish joke.

Click on America Is Not Yet Lost and Liberum Veto for comparisons of the U.S. Senate and Polish Sejm.

While I blame conservative abuse and liberal weakness for the Senate’s current paralysis, I imagine my conservative friends could find examples of liberal abuse of power in the past.  This wouldn’t change my argument.  Abuse is abuse, no matter who does it.

I hope that when and if the conservatives get back in power, the liberals are just as obstructionist as the conservatives are now – not because I believe obstructionism is justified when my side does it, but because I believe the conservatives would the gumption to refuse to tolerate it, and, when they are in the majority, uphold the principle of majority rule.

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2 Responses to “Abusive conservatives and battered liberals”

  1. jonolan Says:

    Somewhat sadly, you’re wrong. The Libs aren’t complaining because this IS the reprisal for their previous behavior which the GOP tolerated knowing that, sooner or later, the tables would be turned.

    The overall behavior pattern also showed itself in the Porkulus. The Libs stacked it with useless pet Liberal projects just to punish the Conservatives who the Libs knew couldn’t block it. Soon – very soon given the 2010 election predictions – similar punitive measures will be enacted upon the Libs by the GOP in retaliation.

    Truly, the Tea Party and a Liberal equivalent – i.e., two groups of normal people as opposed to career politicians / lawyers – are our best hope for a solid future.


    • philebersole Says:

      Click on the following for some facts about President Obama’s success in getting judges confirmed versus his predecessors.


      Briefly, President Obama has had a smaller number and smaller number of his judicial nominees confirmed than any President since President Nixon at this point in his presidency, and President Nixon faced a Congress controlled by the opposing party. Fewer than half have been confirmed. Forty-seven of these vacancies have been labeled emergencies by the federal judiciary because they are overwhelmed with the heavy caseload.

      But the real issue is not whether liberals are worse saboteurs of the democratic process than conservatives. The issue is how far we are willing to tolerate this sabotage before our government ceases to function.

      You do have a good point about the need for independent political movements outside control of the two entrenched political parties.


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