Once again we are witnessing a debate in the US Senate as to whether the filibuster should be dispensed with. To be quite honest, I cannot get too excited about this kind of rule change, though I can see why abandoning it could have significant consequences. But it is a symptom of a far more serious problem. I think that the US political system has deep problems that extend far beyond arcane senate rules.
What we are witnessing these days is that the Republican party has basically abandoned any attempt at following any kind of reasonably coherent political philosophy and instead seeks to basically undermine the very functioning of government (except for the military) by blocking everything it does not like, irrespective of any damage it does. Since the only things it likes involve siphoning yet more money to rich people and appeasing the crazy views of its social conservative base, we have arrived at what is a state of paralysis. We have no budgets or meaningful legislation anymore. Instead we have ad hoc measures like the sequestration.
As Greg Sargent says, “today’s GOP has effectively abdicated the role of functional opposition party, instead opting for a kind of post-policy nihilism in which sabotaging the Obama agenda has become its only guiding governing light.”
Jonathan Chait adds:
One of the novel developments in conservative thought during the Obama years is a burgeoning hatred not merely for government but for lawmaking. Before the Obama era, the ends of crafting laws divided the parties, but the means did not. The process of corralling votes, placating hold-outs, and hammering out compromises was not something either side especially loved — you’ve heard the classic line about watching the sausage get made — but also not something that one side disliked more than the other. But a hatred for lawmaking has emerged in the Obama years, first as a Republican tactic, and then as an apparently genuine belief system.
From 2009 to 2012 the Republican strategy was explicitly stated as having the goal of making Obama a one-term president by acting in total opposition to everything he wanted to achieve. If he wanted something, that was enough to oppose it. So the only things that happened were those measures designed to please their joint oligarchic overlords, like bailouts of Wall Street.
But Obama was re-elected despite this implacable opposition. And polls indicate that this strategy is still not working for them, with the majority of the public (51%) blaming the Republicans for Washington’s gridlock over Obama (35%).
So now what? It looks like the Republican party is seeing these results not as a sign that their strategy was wrong but that they were not extreme enough in its implementation. So we are hearing calls that the party needs to block anything that might be construed as a ‘success’ for the president and the Democratic party, which means preventing any legislation at all, blocking confirmation of as many nominees as possible, and trying to run up the score with white, religious, socially conservative voters, to overcome the deficits in other demographics.
So we can likely expect an even uglier next three years, with gridlock in Washington and highly divisive rhetoric that will seek to open up even further divisions based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, generations, and religion.