Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Taking the Hit

Robert Steinback of the Miami Herald reviews the filibuster deal and says the Democrats flinched.

It’s hard to blame the seven minority-party senators who opted Monday to capitulate in the face of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s threat to invoke the so-called nuclear option and trash the two-centuries-old tradition of the vote-blocking minority filibuster. The game of chicken that was reaching its climax was, after all, just a bit unbalanced — not unlike the unforgettable standoff between that lone demonstrator in Tiananmen Square in 1989 who dared government tanks to run him over.

But the card player in me wanted the Democrats to call Frist’s hand. Were Frist and his White House allies really so arrogant that they would have rolled their tank treads right over the last procedural card that Democrats in Washington still hold?


There’s no need for token gestures to pluralism and harmony if you’re convinced you’ll always be in control. But that’s an unhealthy mindset: The retention of a measure of leverage by the political minority has helped our system of government endure more or less peacefully (the Civil War being the exception) for almost 229 years. Meanwhile military coups, guerrilla insurgencies, strong-arm dictators and relentless corruption tormented societies throughout the world. In so many countries, rulers clung brutally to power rather than face retribution by the opposition should it ever prevail — and more often than not, a victorious opposition obliged.

The 14 senators who sealed Monday’s agreement surely had this in mind. We should be thankful that someone did.

Then there’s that other part of me that is frustrated with Americans who, by my reckoning, continue to nap while this adminstration continues its relentless attack on time-tested American tradition and values — which so far has included launching an unnecessary war of aggression, undermining citizen protections against government intrusion into privacy and civil rights and seeking to destroy, rather than shore up, the nation’s old-age and survivors’ benefits program. A recent poll found that more than half of Americans aren’t even paying attention to the battle over the Senate’s threatened nuclear option on the filibuster.

Maybe they’ll pay attention when a future, Bush-influenced Supreme Court criminalizes abortion, removes corporate liability for injuries caused by defective products, permits the tax-supported proselytizing of certain religions over others, endorses detention without charges, deportations without hearings and invasions of privacy without warrants — and who knows what other mischief.

That’s why, had I been a senator, I would have dared Frist to detonate the nuclear option. Perhaps the noise of the explosion would have stirred more Americans to look more closely at the cards they’re being dealt.

My disagreement with his position is that by the time the bomb has gone off, it’s too late to start hunting for the terrorists. If there’s one lesson we learned from the Clinton years, it’s that the right wing is never satisfied with just a little more. These people want it all, they want it all now. To quote the immortal Bluto Blutarsky,

Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

We’ve only just begun, and the compromise seems to be causing more infighting with the Republicans than it is with the Democrats. As long as they’re doing that, the less they’ll be able to mount a concerted attack on us.

PS: I like T. Rex’s take on this.