Did you ever see such a sight in your life

8 10 2019

Started my morning by hoisting a dead mouse out of the back of my replacement fridge.

How was your day?

~~~

I started reading Jonathan Bernstein when he wrote ‘a plain blog about politics’, then when he moved to Bloomberg, and I follow him on Twitter. I think he’s smart and knows a great deal about how American politics has worked.

I didn’t always agree with him—he’s been far more bullish on Madisonian federalism than I—but as a non-Americanist and grump, I thought—and think—it worthwhile to pay attention to an optimistic Americanist.

However, that optimism can skew the fuck out of his thinking:

Good government is tremendously important, but positing that the best way to get Republicans—a party Bernstein has recognized is FUBAR—to go along with impeachment is to take Pelosi out of the chain of succession is  . . .  what? getting high on his own supply? the slateyist of #slatepitches as ever were? at the level of “I’m not saying aliens, but. . . “?

Not it, chief.

~~~

I got the replacement fridge yesterday, after a months-long campaign to convince the super that my old fridge was, in fact, on the fritz. (The thermostat was rather too free-form, allowing it to get warm enough for ice cubes to melt, then powering on so fiercely anything in the back half of the fridge would freeze. This likely had something to do with the drip from the freezer into the fridge.)

A new one would have resulted in a rent increase; I told him I just wanted one that worked.

~~~

Again, I’d like us to get back to functionality, but I don’t see how Dems smashing their own kneecaps will do that.

No, the system has broken down—the Republicans broke the system down—and inviting Dems to break themselves as a means of repair is. . . not it, chief.

~~~

So the supe brought up a working fridge from the basement. And yes, it does work! Yay!

But it had also been in the basement for awhile. A basement in a building in Brooklyn. A basement in a building in Brooklyn next to a subway line. The chance of infestation was high, is what I’m saying.

Which I didn’t think about, because Yay! It works!

~~~

I’m leery of offering advice to people who don’t ask for it, and especially not to people I don’t know.

So let’s call this “Terri stating her preferences” for Dem actions: Yield nothing to Republicans. Nothing. Not one thing.

I don’t trust that any kind of compromise is going to be honored by Republicans, and that they won’t go back to SMASH!! the second they get the chance. At this point, we’re dealing not with an opponent willing to engage in reasoned debate, but bad-faith actors who will only forced back into line.

And it’s up to the Dems both to draw that line and punish them for crossing it.

~~~

But by last night something smelled rotten, and I thought, ohhhhhh, I bet there’s something dead in the fridge.

Shiiiiiiit.

It was late, and I thought, do I really want to confront . . . whatever is there at night?

No, I do not. And the smell didn’t reach my bedroom.

~~~

That said, the punishment must be to a greater cause than just payback. I’m not against payback—as much as it’s not my thing (I’m more the walk-away/freeze-out kinda gal), I can recognize the satisfactions—but I think it far better to do something productive with power, if/when the Dems finally achieve it.

~~~

This morning the smell was pretty bad, so before I had my breakfast or coffee, I pulled the fridge out, then with a sigh began to unscrew the lower back panel. It was with a fair amount of trepidation that I pulled it out: just what the hell would I find? or worse, what would come racing out at me?

I peeked in. Nothing. Nothing. Ah, yes, there it is: mouse corpse. Only one, that I could see, and nothing else moving.

~~~

So, my preference would be for Dems to add more judges at the district and circuit courts of appeals levels and, yes, to add 2 seats to the Supreme Court. And to fill them.

~~~

Grabbed some tongs, reached in, tugged the corpse out. I cleaned out the back while I was at it, then swept up and took the dusty funeral cortège to the garbage chute.

I then carpeted the whole area with baking soda, screwed the back panel back on, and shoved the fridge back into place.

~~~

The concern with court-packing is that the GOP would do the same when they next get power.

Now, I think they’ll do whatever it takes to tilt everything in their favor, so the idea that they might behave badly in response to the Dems doing something they don’t like is unpersuasive: they’ll behave badly anyway.

~~~

It still doesn’t smell great in here—I think it’ll take time for the baking soda to absorb all that corpse nastiness—but I’m pretty confident I got the source of the stink out.

~~~

That said, I do think the incentive to fuck with the Supreme Court can be reduced: at the same time Dems expand the Court to eleven, they introduce a Constitutional amendment to limit SC terms to 18-to-21 years (I’ve seen various proposals for why x or y-number of years, but it’s late and I’m too lazy to look up the arguments)—and they could write it in such a way that the term limit would apply to any justice who takes a seat after the date of introduction.

So, for example, Dems could in February or March pass legislation expanding the Supreme Court effective May 1, 2021. The amendment could state that term limits would apply to any justice confirmed May 1, 2021 and after.

~~~

Then again, if the smell doesn’t dissipate, I’ll have to go back in and search for more nastiness.

I really don’t want to have to do that, but I don’t need my apartment smelling like death.

~~~

I have no idea if this could work, and who knows if the Constitutional amendment would pass, but I think term-limits for Supreme Court justices is not a particularly partisan issue; having them apply to the new Dem-appointed justices might just help take just a bit of the sting out of the court-packing.

Oh, who am I kidding: the GOP will scream regardless. Tough shit. But maybe this will, over the longer term, help to take some of the partisan pressure off of Supreme Court picks: if every president is assured (more or less) of 1 selection per term, then this nonsense of holding open a seat (Merrick Garland!) or rushing to fill one (Kavanaugh!) might taper off.

In my dreams, I know, but what the hell, why not some late-night political dreaming?

~~~

And you, too: sweet dreams.





So what happens now?

11 03 2016

I’ve followed and enjoyed Jonathan Bernstein‘s disquisitions on American politics. I don’t always agree (his preference for the Madisonian presidential system, his views about money in politics), but he’s practical and open and good at linking to other political scientists.

He’s also been one of the leading proponents of The Party Decides thesis, which, to simplify matters immensely, argues that party insiders force discipline on the nominating process. I first reported on, then came to agree with, this notion, largely because what Bernstein wrote about it made sense.

Of course, “making sense” doesn’t equal “correct”, as we’re all seeing in the current contest, and which Bernstein admits:

bernstein tweet

So, this is a not-at-all-direct prelude to the question: why didn’t Bernstein or other political scientists (or I) see Trump coming?

Another piece: Bernstein has been arguing, for years, that the Republicans at the federal level have become dysfunctional and (institutionally) irresponsible. He’s noted their disinclination to negotiate on bills which relate to their priorities, their unwillingness to vote on nominees which they themselves support to bureaucratic positions, and their indulgence of fantastical rhetoric.

And ‘the party’ has either a) been fine with all of this or b) unable to do anything about it.

Given that, why would Trump be a surprise?

Bernstein has been hitting Trump hard on his ignorance of how government works (see, for example, here and here, as well as on Twitter), but given that Republicans in Congress don’t seem to care much about governance, is it really a shock that Republican voters would support a guy who doesn’t care either?

So, given that Republicans have been acting like/unable/unwilling to discipline the nutters for awhile, and that Donald Trump is not that much of an outlier in the party, is Trump’s rise indicative of a breakdown of the-party-decides model—because the party itself has broken down in some significant way—or, perhaps, that the party has decided he’ll do just fine?





I would not run from the bomb

21 11 2013

Nuke ’em, Harry! Nuke ’em!

I’m referring to the change in Senate rules in which presidential nominees and sub-Supreme Court federal court nominees could be confirmed with a majority vote, i.e., could no longer be filibustered, but it sounds so much more fun to say “NUUUUUKE THEMMMM!”

Even Jonathan Bernstein, who is generally a fan of (kinda) the filibuster, agrees that the Republicans aggressive use of the filibuster has gone out of whack. His tolerance of the filibuster is based in his wariness of majoritarianism, and his belief in the necessity of keeping the minority in the game.

These are important considerations, and I appreciate Bernstein’s tempered historical approach to Senate history. Given that power shifts from Democrats to Republicans and back again with some regularity, not treating the losing party as, well, losers, makes sense: they need to keep a hand in governance.

If that losing party holds no interest in governance, however, and refuses to take any responsibility for the actions of the US government as a whole, then, Bernstein concedes, nuking the minority’s ability to stifle action makes more sense than deferring to it.

I come at this from a different direction, from the necessity of accountability rather than deference. Even when the Republicans were in control of the Senate I supported filibuster reform: if the electorate voted for Republicans, then they (we) ought to deal with the consequences of those elections. If we don’t like those consequences, we should vote differently.

There are problems with this position, of course: this is a policy-first approach, and most people don’t care about policy. As such, my whole notion of weakening or removing the brakes on majority action  might not lead to any greater accountability: if you don’t connect policy to party, then passage of a hated/loved policy won’t necessarily lead to lessened/greater attachment to party.

Still, it’s possible that among the reasons for weak linkage between policy and party attachment (esp. in terms of voting) is that Congressmembers have been able to shrug off responsibility for policy (in)action amidst the thicket of Senate rules. Maybe if we Americans could no longer count on a minority to stifle the majority we would actually have to come to terms with the consequences of our votes.

Maybe not. Maybe Bernstein’s caution is correct. But maybe the best way to figure this out is to  NUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUKE the Senate filibuster rule.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Equus asinus follow-up

12 09 2012

James Fallows said what I said, only better, and with less swearing.

I have a bit of a writer’s-crush on Fallows, I must admit. It’s most unexpected: I knew who he was before I started reading TNC (with whom he shares space in the “Voices” box at The Atlantic Monthly), but he hadn’t made much of an impression on me. At some point, however,  some header or another lead me to click on his name, and it’s been a one-sided love-affair ever since.

He’s smart, he’s measured, he’s reflective, he’s honest, and he really knows how—and when—to bring the hammer down. I’d call him an exemplary pundit if it weren’t such an insult to refer to him as a pundit.

A Wise Man, then.

Anyway, Jonathan Bernstein has another, more general take on Romney’s ill-considered response:

I said yesterday that Republicans don’t appear to read political scientists on the subject of the effect of the economy on elections. But I’ve always suspected that sometime in the 1990s Republicans did read Richard Brody’s classic article about the “rally effect” — in which he found that “rally around the flag” effects depend on the reaction of the out-party, not (for example) whether the event in question is successful or not. If the out-party immediately criticizes the president, then he doesn’t get a bump in his approval ratings; if they support him or stay quiet, then there’s a positive bounce.

. . .

But: why don’t out-party politicians simply always attack the president on everything? Ah, that’s a good question, and one that Team Romney might have asked itself before it jumped. The main reason is paradoxical, in a fun way. Out-party politicians often hesitate to attack during a foreign policy crisis because they’re afraid that they’ll be branded partisan during a time of national unity, for one thing. Those potential attacks might be unfair — as Democrats during the Bush years correctly said, it’s patriotic to dissent if you believe that the nation’s policy is wrong — but nevertheless, politicians must reckon with a national political culture that sometimes (and not entirely predictably) can turn against partisanship. The paradox part is that out-party politicians may refrain from attacking out of fear that the president’s handling of the event will prove wildly popular, when it’s the restraint from normal partisan attacks which actually signals to voters that the president did the correct thing and therefore makes the president’s actions wildly popular.

This snapped me back to my electoral-realist stance: Attacking the president over his administration’s  response(s) to the assaults on the Cairo embassy and the Benghazi consulate is not in and of itself wrong.

What was wrong about the attack was that it didn’t work.

It didn’t lead to a general condemnation of Obama, didn’t lead Republican politicians to rally around Romney, and didn’t burnish his credentials as would-be commander-in-chief. Romney committed one of the only real sins in electoral politics: He hurt himself and helped his opponent.

This doesn’t mean he can’t recover his mojo, but it’s never a good thing to have to recover one’s mojo—especially if the existence of said mojo is in doubt.