January 20, 2010

So long, Massuchusetts

The one positive development I can see in the election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy's former seat in the Senate is that I don't think we'll have to listen to Harry Reid talk about the "60 vote rule" nearly as much anymore. Indeed, I imagine that 2010 will be Harry's own last year in the Senate, since if the Republican "tsunami" is going to sweep anyone from office in November, surely Mr. Mumbles would be one of the first to go.

I never quite understood why the Democrats thought they had 60 votes before this election, however. There were only 58 Democratic Senators when Ted Kennedy was with us. They count Bernie Sanders, the independent Socialist from Vermont, as one of their own, of course, and that makes sense. But they also count Joe Lieberman, and that makes no sense at all. Joe Lieberman is an Independent who simply plays the Democratic Leadership for fools, claiming to caucus with them in order to keep his committee chair, and otherwise doing anything he can to thwart their ambitions, whatever those might be. Joe Lieberman campaigned for John McCain. How bright a picture does a guy have to paint?

Still, this nonchalance of mine can only carry a person so far. The election of a Republican as a Senator from Massachusetts, cradle of our liberal democracy, is a very ominous sign. The cable news guys & gals, always looking for a takeaway line, read these results as a "wake up call" for the Dems. They better get cracking, et cetera. We all know it's too late for that. The Democratic ascendancy was about one thing and one thing only: public revulsion at the manifest atrociousness of the Bush Administration. It did not have much to do with enthusiasm for Democrats per se. They were, however, the other brand, and the good people of this battered land invested their hopes with them.

That would have been the moment to do everything differently - January, 2009. A Democratic Renaissance. Institute radical departures from everything Bushian. Withdraw all the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, begin the process of dismantling half of all those foreign bases and forts, investigate and prosecute all the horrendous torture and detainee abuse, perp walk half of Wall Street for massive securities fraud, begin massive investment in a new energy regime and public transportation - clean the frigging house. The American people would have been thrilled with the prospect of a new sheriff in town, and American progress toward sustainable prosperity.

Instead, Obama and the Democratic Leadership wanted to see how many of the Bush-era "initiatives" and "approaches" could be salvaged and continued under their regime. Can you believe that? That's what they decided to do. In their view, Bush had been such a singular success in managing all of his wars and the American economy that he was worthy of emulation. It worked for him, why not for us? Let's just leave everything the way he left it.

Astounding. So, for now, we have 57 Democratic Senators, 41 Republicans and 2 Independents, one of whom is a Democrat and the other is another Republican, so it's 58-42, which means Harry Reid can stop counting and resume mumbling about parliamentary procedure or whatever it is that he gets paid to do. As we all have learned by now, absolutely nothing can be accomplished in American government unless there are 60 Democratic Senators.

Except, of course, when the Republicans win a few seats in November and, mirabile dictu, for some reason find themselves capable of doing anything they want, just as they did under Bush. That's something I never quite understood. I'm at a loss to think of a single crappy thing Bush wanted to do where he was stymied by the "60 vote" rule. Did the Democrats ever deny him war funding? Stop his illegal wiretaps? Repeal the Patriot Act? Force him to balance a budget?

Nope, none of that ever happened. I would say it's just as well that the Republicans Are Coming, the Republicans Are Coming, but it isn't just as well, as we all know. It's going to be a nightmare. The Republican Party has transmogrified into some very weird parody of its old self, typified by such political practitioners as Sarah Palin and Liz Cheney, who operate on the outside (currently), and by guys like Tom Coburn ("death penalty for ob-gyns who do abortions!"), James Inhofe ("global warming is the greatest hoax on mankind in history!") and Mitch McConnell (well, - Mitch McConnell). All the solons in Washington are going to be living in communal frat houses with Bible readings every morning, and carrying on strange, ritualistic practices at night by candle light, and then swaddling themselves up in diapers and calling in the madams to administer their discipline. American government is going to descend into a kind of hybrid version of 1984 and Rosemary's Baby.

So - a weird, fetishistic government, crucifixes painted on our tanks as they roll through Islamic countries as our wars rage on, a bankrupt Treasury, a lawless approach to Constitutional rights, a decimated economy. Let me know when the fun begins.

A pundit once said, commenting on Michael Jackson's habit of sleeping each night in a hyperbaric glass coffin, "there's a fine line between the weird, and the really, really weird, and Michael has crossed it." We are nearing that Rubicon ourselves. Think fondly on 2009 and 2010; for all of their shortcomings, they will be remembered as the pause before the Storm.

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