(In fact, that whole debate was surreal when you consider that it concerned an industry that likely will die before the planet it’s helping to kill, but one that, somehow, has become the avatar for straight-shootin’ smalltown Americans of all professions, obsolete or not. I think there’s more concern for coal in Washington these days than there has been since 1902.)
But, in general, even these two did all they could to throw sand in the gears of what the majority party was trying to get done. (Manchin and Heitkamp both voted with the party on the two pre-dawn votes Friday.) The Democrats fought as hard as they could in committee against these nominees, and with every tool available to them. (Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, emerged as a ferocious opponent of the Sessions nomination, and Oregon’s Jeff Merkley may end up being the last man standing against Gorsuch.) They even forced the Republicans twice to change committee rules in order to approve nominees with Republican votes only.
There simply is only so much they can do, given their status in both houses of Congress, and the remarkable ability of the Republican majority to hold its votes together. They have pulled every delaying tactic available to a minority in the Senate and they’ve done so full in the knowledge that Mitch McConnell is perfectly willing to blow up whatever political norms—Hi there, Merrick Garland!—and change whatever political norms are in the way of getting what he and his president want. Right now, the administration has fewer Cabinet officers confirmed than any other administration at this point in the calendar. That’s something, anyway.
The wires and pulleys by which Trumpism is hijacking democracy have been exposed. The rest is up to the country.
“Look, I’m headed home to Oregon,” said Senator Ron Wyden. “I’ve had five town meetings when there was more snow in Oregon than any day since 1937. We had very big crowds with people really speaking out. Political change doesn’t start in Washington, D.C. and trickle down. It starts from the bottom up, as people become aware of the facts.
“What’s understood now, and it will increase, is they were told certain things in the campaign. Like with Obamacare. They were told there was going to be a repeal of Obamacare and a replacement. What we’ve really seen is repeal-and-run. They just wanted to repeal this program, get an ideological trophy, but they knew that just doing that would cause an enormous number of problems going forward. Looking for ideological trophies was not what the public was told during the campaign.”
Wyden is correct on the facts, of course, but he may be minimizing the primary “ideological trophy” that people wanted in the campaign and that the election of Donald Trump gave them—a defeat of That Woman, who was standing in for all of The Others who have made the world an insecure place for people who believed that their world should never be insecure at all. (That’s for The Others.) That was all ideological trophy enough for them, and they got it in November. Now, we’re all living with the consequences.
Both of the pre-dawn votes were bad ones. The DeVos nomination is ghastly on its face, but the vote on the Resource Extraction regulation is a vote for serious national security problems down the road. I know I’m harping on this a little but, if you allow American corporations to get back in the business of subletting despots all over the world, you’re buying an awful lot of trouble down the line. You’re going to have corruption and instability in the places under which resources we need are buried. You’re lining up with people who loot their countries and then flee with their ill-gotten gains.
When this happens, you get more instability and more civil wars in which the only things on which both sides agree is that the Americans—or, more generally, the West—are to blame. Of course, this is also how you breed terrorists.
“There’s no question that people’s public health can suffer,” Wyden said. “There is no question that you can have economic dislocation, and real economic pain, for families in a number of parts of the world where every day is an economic struggle just to survive.”
They did all of this before the sun came up on Friday and then, for the most part, they were gone, off into a country that doesn’t know what’s happening to it, and seems to be happier that way, a land of constant surprises now, most of them bad ones.