Republican Chumps

Despite the fact that Republicans increased their majority in the Senate to a health 55-45 in the 2004 elections, we learned last week that it does not take much for Republicans to lose political battles in the Senate. Democrats over the last four years have engaged in an unprecedented use of the filibuster to stop an up-or-a-down vote on the President’s judicial nominees, who would otherwise win confirmation in the Senate. This last week, we almost reached the point where Republicans would execute the “nuclear” or “constitutional” option, depending on the spin on which one wants to apply, to change the rules to prevent filibusters of judicial nominees.

The systematic practice of the judicial filibuster has caused escalating acrimony in the Senate. Republicans have worked hard to win the Presidency and a clear majority in the Senate in the hopes of selecting future judges less disposed to create law and more inclined to adhere to an “original understanding” of the Constitution. Hence, they are frustrated by the use of the filibuster by Democratic Senators to exercise political control that they could not win at the ballot box.

However, if Republican used their voting power to restore precedent and traditional with respect to judicial nominees, Democrats promised to slow the progress of legislation. Moderates, on both sides of the aisle, in a stated effort to restore comity, bipartisanship, and fraternity conjured up a last-minute deal. The President gets an up-or-a-down vote on three of his judicial nominees that had been filibustered. Democrats promise not to use the filibuster for judicial nominees except under “extraordinary” circumstances. Republicans agree to not vote to Senate changes the rules in the meantime.

The supposed comity and fellowship the deal engendered lasted about 48 hours. Democrats raced to filibuster the nomination of John Bolton to be US Ambassador to the United Nations. The brokered filibuster deal technically included only judicial nominees, not nominees to other posts, but the Democratic filibuster following so closely after the deal certainly marked an abrupt end to any alleviation of tensions in the Senate and amounted to a deliberate poke in the eye to the “moderate” Republicans who had brokered the deal. The terms “chump” or “schmuck” come to mind.

With respect to judicial nominees, Democrats had argued that extended deliberation and supermajorities ought to be required for judicial nominees because these judges would serve lifetime terms. The action against the Bolton nomination, not a life-time appointment, demonstrates that the term of the appointment was never really a concern of the Democrats.

Given the ruthlessness with which Democrats have employed their minority status to thwart the efforts of Republicans, one wonders why Democrats seem so reluctant to apply the same skills, determination, unity, and moral certitude to dealing with America’s foreign enemies. On the other hand, Republicans who are so hard-nosed about America’s enemies seem to rollover to Democrats like whipped dogs. Democrats just want to get along with others countries, while they are willing to use every device and subterfuge at their disposal against Republicans. The Chairman of the Democratic Party is more likely to be found making harsh remarks against Republicans than Al Qaeda.

These contrasting behaviors can be explained by the contrasting self-images and world views of Republicans and Democrats. Democrats, at least domestically, are convinced they are morally superior to Republicans. They are at least encouraged in that view by the media which creates a news narrative of Democrats as compassionate politicians looking out for the “little guy.” After all, Democrats created Social Security and want to fashion a government-run health care system. Democrats believe they are inherently a majority party, irrespective of what they expect is a transient Republican majority. Part of this arrogant certitude is an outgrowth of the Vietnam War and Watergate era, when current Democratic leaders came of political age.

While Democrats are convinced of their moral superiority of as a political party, many appear embarrassed of their country. They believe that America is a clumsy giant, meddling in the world. The United States is essentially a mediocre world leader, and only has moral legitimacy when it is acting in accordance with the United Nations and with fawning approval our European allies. After all, Europeans have moved much closer to socially-conscious society in the mold of the highest aspirations of Democrats. How can Americana have any moral authority in the world, if we are not civilized enough to have national health care and socially-leveling rates of taxation. In foreign policy, Democrats just want to get along.

Republicans, especially older Republicans like the ones serving in the Senate, are so accustomed to being in the minority that they have internalized that minority status. In their hearts, they are not quite sure of their legitimacy as a majority party and are consequently reluctant to exercise majority power in politics. They continually seek approval from their fellow legislators and the chattering classes. Moderate Republicans like John McCain seem to depend upon reassurance of praise from the editorial pages of the Washington Post or the New York Times. On the other hand, Republicans are more likely to believe in “American Exceptionalism,” that America represents a “shinny city on a hill” to other countries. Republicans stride confidently righteously in the world, less inhibited by the opinions of others or the constraints of comity.

How much better would the world be if we only persuade Republicans to act like Democrats in politics and teach Democrats to act like Republicans in the world?

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