Diary

Is America Governable?

In a world where “politics is the art of the possible”, it would seem that both the Democrats and the Republicans are being driven to self-destruct by their bases.

For the Democrats

Chuck Shumer’s announcement that the Democrats in the Senate would filibuster Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court reflects what Karl Rove calls the “Empty Rage” of the Left. As a response to their #Resist supporters it is perhaps necessary; as a political strategy it will be a decade long disaster for the Democrats – and a long term defeat for centrist government.

For expediency, in 2013 Harry Reid got the Senate rules changed to allow confirmation of lower level judges by a simple majority, leaving the Supreme Court subject to a requirement of 60 votes to override a filibuster. By most accounts this is good – it makes it more difficult for jurists with extreme records to be confirmed. Both parties have managed with this constraint – with virtually all of the current court having received only modest partisan opposition.

Mitch McConnell upped the ante in 2016, refusing to have hearings on President Obama’s nomination of center-left Merrick Garland to replace conservative icon Antonin Scalia and tilt the court from 5-4 conservative to 5-4 liberal. Shumer’s decision to force McConnell to change the rules to a simple majority to get Gorsuch approved represents payback.

For Shumer this is a forced error. There will likely be several openings in the next few years – at least the conservative Kennedy, and liberals Breyer and Ginsberg. With a 52 to 48 majority for the next two years Trump will be constrained by the need to hold the votes of moderates like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. However, in the 2018 elections there will be 8 Republicans and 25 Democrat/Independent incumbents – in all likelyhood the Republican Senate will be able to move the Court significantly to the right if only 50 votes are required.

For the Republicans

What can be said about the Freedom Caucus? The big question since the 2016 election has been whether the ideologues who were so strong in opposition to everything Obama could shift to a governing role. For more than a few of the House Republicans, the answer is a clear “NO”. Shutting down the government is one thing when the President ofthe opposite party refuses to negotiate on ballooning deficits. Deposing the party leader is one thing when you have a president who will veto any of your legislation anyway. The language, and the result through March 23, has not changed. Rather than make any compromise, many members would rather vote with Nancy Pelosi and against Paul Ryan and Donald Trump, with the understanding that they would be taking down the signature legislation of the new administration.

Next? Can the Republicans recover with a transformational budget? Can they manage corporate tax reform? Personal tax reform? Maybe they can do better with small focused legislation. The key – it is not enough for Representatives to love the president; they need to fear him.

For The Intelligence Community

Third world. Senior campaign officials have histories of consulting with foreign adversaries. In time the truth will out relative to Russian hacking and the role of the Obama administration in surveillance of the Trump campaign and transition team. The neutrality of the FBI has been compromised. The NSA has been compromised by exposing Americans caught in apparently politically motivated wiretaps. The presidency has been diminished by Obama’s decision to spread NSA data across multiple intelligence agencies with the intent that it would hbe leaked.

The legitimate debate about the tension between personal privacy and government intrusion has suffered a major blow as the Obama administration has used the NSA to de-legitimize the Trump administration. This will undoubtedly play out when legislation is needed to re-authorize the FISA court, as well as in budget de;liberations. We will be less safe.

The republic is resilient. The Constitution will survive. But, some visible Republican victories in the next month or so would go a long way.

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www.RightinSanFrancisco.com – 3/24/17