The Senescence of the Senate

During Tuesday night’s vote on the motion to open the Senate healthcare bill for debate, senators representing 143 million citizens voted in favor, while senators representing 179 million citizens voted against.

This was considered a tie.

To break the tie, a man who was elected with almost three million votes less than his opponent stepped in to bring the bill to the floor.

And with that, the Will of the People had been expressed.

The Senate is the only institution in American governance that does not even pretend to represent Americans. Instead, it represents territorial units of America, land instead of people. That land is not evenly divided, but the result of historical circumstance. And that land does not include the District of Columbia, which boasts more souls than Vermont or Wyoming.

There is no reason for any of this.

There are only excuses.

We have spent a lifetime being told the virtues of “federalism”. And virtues there are, particularly in the exercise of power. The concerns of Oregonians are not the concerns of Floridians, and governments that exist to respond to the needs of different regions devolve power to the appropriate level — just as within states, city and county governments devolve power even closer to citizens.

And, over time, the authority and scope of the power exercised by states has been generally, if sometimes contentiously, understood. We know how the contraption works. We know what goes where, for the most part.

But states are not sovereign. We do not require passports to cross state borders, we do not require multiple citizenship to relocate from one state to another. We are citizens of one nation, and that citizenship guarantees us rights that states cannot overrule or undermine.

We are Americans. And we seem pretty proud of that. Lord knows we chant it often enough.

But we are not represented as Americans in the United States Senate. We are represented as states.

We are told that this is the genius of Federalism, a fancy concept whose only purpose is to disguise the fact that it is total bullshit, that the structure survives only because it represents the naked exercise of self-sustaining power. It endures because the people who benefit from that power, whose assent would be required to alter the structure itself, have no interest in surrendering their privilege.

We are told that the Senate protects us from the tyranny of the majority, which we might even believe if our country was as solicitous to all its minorities as it is toward white rural residents.

We are told that the Senate spares us from the passions of the moment, when similar protection could be easily provided by mandating, say, a ten-vote spread in a body of equitable representation.

We are only a Federalist Republic when it serves the minority interests of those who wave that banner. Otherwise they, like the rest of us, prefer to invoke The American People, the citizens of one nation, not the scattered residents of arbitrary regional governments.

As bad as this is today, especially this week, it will only get worse. As older generations die off and newer generations rise to adulthood, Americans will be clustering in larger cities and states. That 50-50 Senate vote in ten years will not hide a gap of 36 million citizens, but millions more.

And the cries of Federalism! will grow even louder, to drown out the growing realization among citizens that their government of the people isn’t really, not by a long shot.

The problem, as with the Electoral College, is that a governing structure that no longer even vaguely expresses the consent of the governed loses its legitimacy. And without legitimacy, without a general acceptance of that authority among citizens, a moment arrives when that governing structure simply collapses.

We should know. That’s why we’re Americans in the first place.

42 comments:

10:38 am • Sunday • July 30, 2017

DJT

At this point, the J stands for either Joffery or Jar Jar.

Either way, it fits this sad excuse of a human being let alone elected leader of the US Amercia.

1:57 pm • Sunday • July 30, 2017

McConnell’s Strange Achievement

The last-minute survival of Obamacare is already deflating Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reputation as a Machiavellian legislative genius, but really, its near-demise ought to confirm his reputation for manipulative brilliance. Earlier this week, he persuaded 50 Republicans, including McCain, to vote to accelerate the repeal process, even though many of them, especially McCain, were trashing that very process as an irresponsible embarrassment to the Senate. He managed to keep almost all of his caucus together until the end, somehow convincing conservatives who thought the legislation was too timid and moderates who thought it was way too radical that he could magically square that circle. For all the mockery of Trump’s earlier tweet about how getting even 48 Republicans to back repeal was “impressive by any standard,” it wasn’t entirely wrong, especially considering the dysfunction of the White House and the unpopularity of the bill.

In fact, McConnell managed to get 49 Republicans on the bare-bones “skinny repeal” he pulled out of his hat ass late Thursday night, including Senator Lindsey Graham, who called the bill “a disaster,” and Senator Mike Rounds, who said it would create “a total collapse of the market.” It was never clear how any legislation that merged the skinny repeal with the more conservative bill the House passed could satisfy Senator Bill Cassidy’s “Jimmy Kimmel test,” guaranteeing unlimited medical care for any sick child, but Cassidy was a yes as well. So were Heller and Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who came out against taking away anyone’s Medicaid—Capito declared just last week that she “didn’t come to Washington to hurt people”—along with conservatives like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who wanted much bigger Medicaid cuts.

Ultimately, McConnell fell one vote short of papering over all those differences. He lost, so his completely partisan, intensely secretive, consistently deceptive approach seems outrageously cynical rather than brilliantly cynical. His decision to hold no hearings on Trumpcare after attacking Democrats for holding only 79 hearings on Obamacare seems like an appalling violation of Senate norms rather than a brilliant violation of Senate norms. Unsuccessful legislative efforts, like losing political campaigns, always seem dysfunctional in retrospect. But coming this close to passing this unpopular a bill was arguably the most dynamic feat of legislative leadership since, well, since McConnell violated Senate norms by keeping Merrick Garland off the Supreme Court.

2:05 pm • Sunday • July 30, 2017

Observations on a Late-Night Rescue Mission

1. Let’s appreciate people in the proper order here for last night’s stake in the heart of Trumpcare, the current effort at repealing the Affordable Care Act (and, like a movie monster, it will be back, no doubt, for another goddamn sequel):

a. Voters from across the nation inundated legislators with calls and messages and face-to-face confrontations. Some of the most effective opposition came from disabled Americans who blocked hallways and demanded to be heard by their senators. They were stark and real physical reminders of what’s at stake if the Affordable Care Act was repealed. People in wheelchairs and on ventilators were abused and arrested, but they bravely persisted.

b. Democrats held together in a way that I have rarely seen. While you can attribute that to solid leadership, you can also say it was helped by the support of their constituents (and the fact that GOP efforts polled at less than 20% support). The strongest outcome from this politically is that finally, at long last, Democrats have decided to own Obamacare fully. Sure, sure, Chuck Schumer spoke of the need to improve it (perhaps putting on too much of a show of eating shit). But Democrats have staked their electoral futures on the turn in public opinion in favor of the ACA, and that just might reveal a path to the real improvement: single payer.

c. Early on, I predicted that Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski (and, perhaps, John McCain) had the potential to turn independent and maybe caucus with the Democrats. While that didn’t happen, these two senators, from far flung states, stood firm against every effort to cut Medicaid, undermine the insurance exchanges, and get rid of policies that protected the most vulnerable in people in Maine and Alaska. Both of them withstood insane pressure and even wishes for violence against them from the savage members of their party in the House. Hell, Murkowski even had her state directly threatened by the Secretary of the Interior. In the end, they told their party’s leadership, including the idiot president, to go fuck themselves. That was gutsy and even honorable, something you can rarely say about Republicans.

4:42 pm • Sunday • July 30, 2017

@¡Andrew!: A one-vote fail does nothing to diminish Mitch’s reputation as a master gamer. (And nobody’s questioning the manipulator part.) The only reason he didn’t get a final victory — alas, so far — is that he was dealing to an inside straight, and damn near filled it. Meanwhile, he bluffed almost everyone else out of the pot.

But this judgment hinges on what follows. If Mitch loses control over his caucus, that blows up his reputation far more than a one-vote loss. Mitch rules by fear. No fear, no rule.

4:43 pm • Sunday • July 30, 2017

@¡Andrew!: As implied, gutsy and honorable are two words that do not describe John McCain.

8:55 pm • Sunday • July 30, 2017

@nojo: McCain has always been a souless opportunist and conniving, self-aggrandizing partisan. All indications are that he voted for the MTP then against the skinny repeal just to stick it to Twitler, and to a lesser extent, McCONjob. McCain “prefers presidents that haven’t been captured by Putin,” however his opposition does not rest on any real principles or moral scruples, that’s for damned sure.

3:18 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

Aaaaaaand The Mooch is reportedly out already. He seemed like such a nice man.

Now what horror will emerge from the Twitler clown car–a promotion for Hucksterbee-Slanders?

3:23 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@¡Andrew!: Escorted off the WH grounds. Prob not to spend more time w/his family, since his wife is divorcing him and he missed his premature baby’s birth to service the guy who just fired him.

3:23 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@¡Andrew!: I an so fucking pissed. Couldn’t enjoy the ahow last week because of the Senate, and now the show’s over.

3:25 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@Dodgerblue: Sam Stein tried to feel sorry for him. Fuck that. Dude’s a creep.

3:48 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@nojo: Trump destroys everything he touches.

3:49 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

Rumor has it that with Congress’ veto-proof passage of even more Ru$$ian sanctions, Twitler is now expendable for Putin, and the best is yet to come: the Remington Steele Dossier’s piss-hookers tape on the next episode of Ru$$ia’s Funniest Home Videos.

4:01 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@¡Andrew!: But don’tcha think he’s more useful to them if they dangle the tape, so to speak, rather than release it?

4:13 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@Dodgerblue: We need the pee tape or the tax returns, or none of this will have been worth it.

4:18 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

Scaramucci’s official start date was supposed to be August 15. He missed his son’s birth & ended up divorced & got fired before he started.

–Mikki Kendall

4:20 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@¡Andrew!: I can’t decide which person I most want to get their hands on the tape first, Ashley Feinberg or Stephen Colbert.

4:24 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@¡Andrew!: Not missed. Skipped.

The Mooch knew his priorities. Unfortunately, they were the wrong ones.

4:32 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@nojo: My guess is that the tax returns will show lots of Russian debt, but not that the Russian $$ is dirty. But Mueller is going there.

4:35 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@Dodgerblue: Ru$$ia has nothing the US wants (kleptocracy, hackers, white supremacists–we’ve already got plenty), and Twitler can’t deliver what Ru$$ia wants (lifting sanctions). Therefore, Ru$$ia has no reason not to go for its secondary goal of creating mass confusion and political chaos in order to further destabilize the United States.

4:35 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@mellbell: Rachel Maddow.

4:36 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@¡Andrew!: Pence? Re chaos, I think they are better off with Trump.

4:40 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@nojo: Every investigative organization and intelligence agency on the planet is working to turn the Tdumbp Organization/criminal syndicate inside out. It’s only a matter of time and likely will be even more stunning than the wildest conspiracy theories that I’ve been spreading.

5:05 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@Dodgerblue: This being Trump, “Sale, to V. Putin, one soul, $10,000,000” is not out of the question. Junior had to learn his stupidity somewhere.

But yes, the evidence won’t be in the returns, just the clues.

5:08 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@¡Andrew!: If Rachel gets the tape first, she’s gonna go 45 minutes explaining the history of video before she gets to it.

5:19 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@¡Andrew!: I’m in it for the lulz, not cogent analysis.

5:25 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@mellbell: Hear, hear. Tawdry needs no justification.

7:15 pm • Monday • July 31, 2017

@mellbell: Dick jokes are always welcome.

12:57 am • Tuesday • August 1, 2017

Seattle August Primary fun facts: Of the seven public offices on the ballot, five of the best candidates that my hubby and I voted for are people of color, and four of those best candidates are women, including one transwoman. It’s times like this that I thank dog we live here.

2:17 pm • Tuesday • August 1, 2017

@¡Andrew!: I’m filling out my ballot right now. Holy Hell the people running against Dow Constantine are crazy.

ETA: Is it free to register as a candidate? It has to be.

12:00 pm • Wednesday • August 2, 2017

@JNOV: More good news: Seattle will have a woman for mayor in November, since both top two candidates from the primary are women. Either will be excellent, and I’m thrilled to have such great leaders!

3:02 pm • Wednesday • August 2, 2017

Sanctions signed–brace for piss-hookers!

5:10 pm • Wednesday • August 2, 2017

Let’s not mince words: the U.S. is becoming an Apartheid state. Nojo does a great job laying out the absurdity of voting power by virtue of geography, without even touching on GOP moves to disenfranchise poor and minority voters.

7:25 pm • Wednesday • August 2, 2017

@Serolf Divad: Agreed. Those sick fux want us to regress back to the days of Jim Crow and segregation.

I just can’t understand why nearly half the country won’t vote; I mean, FFS what’s it gonna take?

7:30 pm • Wednesday • August 2, 2017

@JNOV: Dow is a lifelong resident of my ‘hood, and yes heez geek dreamy. I’d love for him to run for governor.

9:25 pm • Thursday • August 3, 2017

@Serolf Divad: Don’t forget this is compounded by prison gerrymandering whereby folks primarily from more urban areas (and overwhelmingly black and brown) are systematically disenfranchised for purposes of actually voting, yet are still counted as “people” in the (overwhelmingly rural white) parts of states where the prisons are located, thus apportioning more Congressional representative and state legislative districts to said rural areas, yet where the people who are incarcerated can’t actually vote (except for 2 states that allow prisoners to vote).

https://www.prisonersofthecensus.org/

God fucking bless ‘Merikah, such as.

2:43 am • Friday • August 4, 2017

Somewhere, by hook or by crook, I trust there is a longstanding employee of The Deep State who has ordered a couple thousand orange jumpsuit – and at least one of them in 3XXXLLL or whatever Trump’s size is … I want no repeat of the Bushies getting away scott free. This has to hurt.

10:38 am • Friday • August 4, 2017

/hilarious TGIF/

Newsweek: Lazy Boy

10:49 am • Friday • August 4, 2017

@blogenfreude: Yeah, y’know, about that…

The man who loved talking about the Arc of Justice also told us to forget about justice for the crimes of his predecessor.

So, as much as I want heads on pikes, I’m not holding my breath.

2:08 pm • Friday • August 4, 2017

@nojo: It’s true. Obama and Holder’s decision not to prosecute the Bu$hbots and the bankers has led directly to the buckwild rebuke of the rule of law and kleptocracy on parade today.

4:18 pm • Friday • August 4, 2017

@¡Andrew!: Contributed to, at least. America’s Kleptocracy has many fathers, and more than a few motherfuckers.

5:19 pm • Friday • August 4, 2017

@nojo: We could also throw in Ford’s pardoning of Nixon as an official removal of moral hazard from the White House, as well as the geyser of lies about Vietnam that was the beginning of the end of Americans’ trust in our guhmmit.

5:31 pm • Friday • August 4, 2017

@¡Andrew!: I have never heard “moral hazard” applied to that moment, and now I want to fuck the shit out of you. Clearly my wiring’s crossed somewhere.

But it is profoundly correct, and demonstrative. Titans of Industry and Politics may get nailed on petty shit now and then, but never the big stuff. They know they can get away with enormous crimes, because their successors won’t have the balls to seek justice. We now have a virtuous circle of ignominy, perfectly tuned.

I honestly don’t remember what I thought at the time, so I can’t retcon outrage at Ford pardoning Nixon. I can say that the Seventies were a very dark, cynical decade, and that’s when I came of age.

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