Thanks for the Nuclear Option

Harry Reid did conservatives a favor - sort of.

Every year at about this time, Scragged publishes an article talking about things for which we ought to be thankful.

Let's be frank: This gets harder every year.  You can say "I am thankful just to be an American" only so many times, and for conservatives, victories for which real thankfulness is plausible have been few and far between.  About the only sort of "victory" we see anymore is by stopping a particularly foul policy from being enacted.  Not only is even this wan sort of victory increasingly rare, simply not losing is very much not the same thing as an actual win.  Do we even remember what one of those looks like?

Which is why it's possible for us to say that we're actually thankful for Harry Reid's exercising of the Senate "nuclear option," eliminating the filibuster as a parliamentary technique for the minority to stop court and administration appointments it considers particularly odious, even when a simple majority would pass them.

Winning By Not Losing

Looking back at the past few decades of Republican strategy, it becomes clear that they almost never even attempt to have a strategy to do anything conservative.  Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" was about the closest thing, and even half of that was ultimately ditched.

On the other hand, Republicans always have a bogeyman that they need to stop, which serves for fundraising and base-motivation.  We need to stop Obamacare!  We need to stop funds for Planned Parenthood!  We need to stop gun control!  We need to stop tax increases!  We need to stop leftist activist judges from taking the bench!  And so on.

Throughout the modern political era, the filibuster has worked very well with a "Stop the Bad" approach.  Republican politicians overall didn't have to work very hard to make their team win; individually and personally, they could maintain power merely by winning their own personal election and ensuring that they could "not lose" some major issue to crow about.  It only took 34 Republican Senators to enforce a filibuster, and even with all their advantages, the Democrats rarely had more than 67 of their own.

Up to a point, this even works when you fail to "not lose."  Obamacare is the law of the land - and yet Republicans have been raising money and votes by delcaring opposition to it for years now.  They've held repeal votes countless times - all of which are meaningless, since the Democratic Senate will never pass them and President Obama would veto them anyway.  Yet they can accurately claim to be "working hard to repeal Obamacare," while accomplishing nothing whatsoever.

Sometimes it seems as if Republicans don't even want to win, because when they do, they've no idea what to do with it.  What has the last few years of Republican-majority Congress accomplished?  They've stopped a lot of bad things, but actual accomplishments?  Not really.

You might say, "Well, what do you expect them to do with Obama in the White House?"  Fair enough, so let us ask, what was accomplished ten years ago when George W. Bush was president and had a Republican Congress?  Several excellent Supreme Court justices, and tax cuts that lasted for ten years and then expired.  Anything else useful?  Nope.

When You Can't Even "Not Lose" Anymore

So, by taking away the Republican's ability to proudly claim effectiveness simply by being obstructionists, Harry Reid is forcing Republicans to accept a higher standard of accomplishment.  If they want to have any power at all, or any boast that might get them re-elected, they're going to have to work together to a) win a majority and then b) actually Do Something useful with it.

Let's face reality though: this isn't likely.  It's far more probable that the far-leftist plans of Obama, Reid, and the rest will now proceed forward full-throttle, mostly unchecked.

As bad for America as that will be, it's also good.  Here's why: For the past half-century, the dilution of freedom and growth of the size and reach of government has rolled on continually - just slower at some times than others.  Mr. Reagan didn't shrink the government.  Mr. Bush didn't shrink the government.  For sure Richard Nixon didn't shrink anything; he created some of the worst and most intrusive agencies such as the EPA!

But because, for the most part, the leftward progression has been relatively slow, people have gotten used to it.  That's why, until Mr. Obama came along, the Democrats were content to let old conservatives die off, secure in the knowledge that the next generation was more thoroughly steeped in leftism, and the next younger generation to them was still more so, and so on down the line.

Think about it:  Today's high-school students never had the childhood entrepreneurial experience of running a lemonade stand because the local health department shuts them down for lack of licensing and inspections.  They also have never enjoyed the liberty of cheap, warm electric light from Edison's incandescent bulb, or the full-throated flush of an old-fashioned toilet that uses enough water to actually do the job.

Today's college students do not remember a time when they could wear their shoes into the airport, or wave goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa as the plane pulled out.  Nor have they ever felt the wind in their hair when riding a bike; helmets have "always" been required.

Today's young parents don't remember being able to build a house for themselves on their own land; they've "always" had to waste years and thousands of dollars on government permits and inspections, which is why they generally just buy cookie-cutter, ticky-tacky places stamped down by a giant corporation.

Today's middle-aged don't remember being expected to take care of their own relatives who fall on hard times; there's always been welfare and Social Security for that.

Today's elderly don't remember having to be prepared to defend themselves - there've always been cops on call when danger threatens.

In a few years more, most voters won't remember ever going to church, or the phrase "Merry Christmas", or the concept of marriage as consisting of a husband and wife - or for that matter, any connection between marriage and children.  They won't remember the idea of medical services as being something you pay for, as opposed to being something that you fight to get the government or an insurance company to shell out for on your behalf.  The idea of having the right to choose who you do or don't do business with, or who you do or don't hire, is fast becoming an alien one thanks to ever-encroaching nondiscrimination laws, but with religion ever more marginalized most people won't even realize the problem.

The only hope for change can be found in a backlash, and for that to happen, people must know what they are backlashing against.  That means they must remember that things used to be different, and the ways in which they were.  It helps if people understand why the old ways were better, but if today's problems are bad enough, merely recalling that they were different once might be enough.

The slower the changes happen, the less this is possible.  Thanks to Mr. Obama's aggressive "fundamental transformation" and Harry Reid's removal of the last brakes on his direct executive power, the changes will be thick and fast.

None of this guarantees a backlash.  None of this guarantees that public anger can be transformed into actual political change, either by Republican victories, a new Republican effectiveness, or the rise of a third party that's willing to fight the good fight.  But it does make it more likely.

And things being as they are, we'll take that and be thankful for it.  Enjoy your turkey while you can, before Michelle Obama replaces it with a government-enforced healthy tofurkey!

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

"what was accomplished ten years ago when George W. Bush was president and had a Republican Congress? Several excellent Supreme Court justices..."

And even that is arguable. Roberts has been a huge disappointment. I never expected him to be a conservative activist, but he's twice abdicated his responsibility as the judicial wing of Checks & Balances. He doesn't appear to believe that the Judiciary is SUPPOSED to stop the Legislature, even in cases where the Legislature barely or sneakily won out!

November 27, 2013 10:00 AM

You have to understand, these guys don't believe we peasants can possibly take care of ourselves.

Back in 1993, during the fight over HillaryCare, Hillary explained Democratic reasoning to then-House GOP Leader Denny Hastert. If Americans are allowed too much discretion over how they spend their health-care dollars, she said, "We just think people will be too focused on saving money and they won't get the care for their children and themselves that they need . . .

"The money has to go to the federal government because the federal government will spend that money better."

They assume that their all-knowing, all wise, all-powerful government can take care of us, but they can't even run a web site. Obama chooses vendors based on connections. He's unable to evaluate competence. No wonder he can't make anything happen.

November 27, 2013 11:44 AM
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