The Republicans have spent the last few days blowing blood vessels over Obama's recess appointment of Richard Cordray, and the three members of the National Labor Relations Board. Now perhaps showing contempt for the in-name-only pro forma sessions done by the House, which last all of thirty seconds, and include no other business is something new, but what Obama did was essentially what he was supposed to do.
The Republicans are the ones who have been in the midst of a truly unprecedented power grab, and it's to my sorrow that too many of you haven't recognized this, haven't allowed for this, as we face much more right-wing policy than we ever thought we would at this point.
You need to tell people this: that hundreds of positions and court seats have been left vacant, or filled by acting officials. That courts are starving for judges to try cases, that the very machinery of government has been ground to a halt in many places by a Congressional minority unwilling to acknowledge that Americans want their government moderated from where it was before 2006.
There is nothing explicitly constitutional about the filibuster. It is a product of Senate Rules, a by-product, even. Somebody back in the eighteen hundreds forgot to answer the question of how long a debate could last before time ran out. The practice turned out to have some accidental political value, and the different sides concluded it was a nice thing to have in the back pocket.
Course, you had to stand your own loud-mouthed self up at the podium and test your endurance, so it wasn't something people were fond of. That is, until the seventies, after which it kind of became a more formal thing where the intention was announced, and everybody had to talk until sixty votes could be found.
There were filibusters before 2006. Difference is, it was often a bargaining tool. Changes would be made, things would move forward.
What Republicans started in 2006 was nullification. Whatever Americans voted for didn't matter. Why? I don't know. Distrust in American judgment after turning them down for a longer term as majority? Congential psychosis brought on by the incestuous relationships of their parents (I kid.) Point is, from 2006 to 2010, Republicans have been applying a filter to American Liberalism that's left all but the most conservative of our legislation in tatters.
Power wasn't merely grabbed from the Democrats, but from Americans wanting change. How much of that disappointment in the policy that didn't show up fed into the 2010 election? How many of the compromises we made would have been forgone if we hadn't had a 60 vote hurdle to surmount, especially after Mr. Cosmo got elected to Teddy's old seat (and hopefully Elizabeth Warren's new seat?)
The answer is, if you really look at it, is a lot, a damned hell of a lot.
Which raises the disturbing possibility that the cynicism of a lot of Democrats on this site is, while well intentioned and somewhat justified, a failure to successfully counter the Republican's obstructive power grab. That's right, I'm saying that you might have inadvertantly helped the Republicans take something that wasn't theirs to take.
Which brings us around to what Obama did. Why are we cheering this? Well, whether you're cynical about the administration or not, you've gotten the sense that reform has been unfairly stifled, that you haven't gotten the change you wanted because of what a bunch of idiots in Congress have been doing. You love that he's found a workaround, that he's taken back what should be obvious, constitutional, political prerogatives of the President: appointing the people who lead the agencies and bureaus, the boards and whatnot, and carrying out the law that Congress has passed, and that other Congresses have not had the ability to undo.
I'm the last person to say that I am pleased with the Republicans using their majority to vote down laws we might otherwise get out of the Senate. But Republicans, too, suffer under a handicap, a handicap brought on by the fact that they failed to win the Senate the last time. They can't dictate terms. Because of this, they have no hope of getting our Senate to undo the Dodd Frank law which undergirds the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, except through an excruciating process of holding its director's appointment hostage.
So, to put it plainly, what Obama did was in response to an extraconstitutional blockade of ANY appointment, and the Pro Forma Sessions, which weren't sessions at all, were simply a means of confounding his other remaining response, the recess appointment, which the Constitution obviously prescribed as the remedy when the Senate could not agree on a confirmation, and the posts remained vacant.
Obama was taking back the power that was his, and we were glad to see it.
I think he'll be doing a lot of that in the coming months, but I think we ought to pause to consider something very important: in the coming months, we face the daunting task of taking back the House, and maintaining control of the Senate, and even if we win, we still face the challenge in the Senate, likely enough, of gaining enough of a majority to make the filibuster a weaker strategy on the GOP's part.
Despair and pessimism, in the light of a tough six years politically, are understandable. They're just not that useful here. The question is not prognosticating our fate, whether we keep or lose on various fronts. No, the question is what we want and what we need to get in order to get what we want.
Framing it passively means you're a spectator, and you have the expectations and anxieties of a spectator. It means you're easier to beat and keep down. You need to look at the pattern of the Republican political strategies, and understand it for what it is: the Republican's desperate attempt to undo a political judgment that has come down against them. They are faced with the possibility, having told themselves for years that it would be the end of the world for us to be in charge, that the end is actually nigh. Worse yet, for the leaders, the Republicans face another possiblity: that people might figure out that having the Democrats in charge is NOT the end of the world, though it certainly isn't what they prefer.
If the GOP's voters conclude that the sense of urgency that the GOP's demanded these last few years is the sick joke that it actually is, then we might see the beginning of a more lasting decline in the GOP's fortunes as their scare tactics get greeted with choruses of "yeah, yeah." and "that's nice, dear."
But there has to be a reckoning. We get that reckoning as we pursue a deliberate, broad-based political strategy sold on the grounds of getting stalled reform moving, of replacing old-guard Democrats with new, and the Republican majorities and office holders with Democratic Party acquisitions. And really, we can't stop to feel sorry for ourselves. Doing that, I believe, cost us 2010, and years of progress. No, we got to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, because that is the only kind of defeat that can be inflicted on us, and the only way people like us can really be stopped.
Yes, bad things happened, ideal things were knocked down, the process got a little bit too much like watching sausage get made. Well, that's what happens in politics, especially when much of your ranks come from the cowed and co-opted ranks of years of Reagan imitating Democrats.
But there is a big difference between Democrats and Republicans nowadays, it just gets harder to see when the power to legislate and appoint, as per the constitution, is illegitimately grabbed away from us by tactics designed to thwart the will of the people when it runs counter to the will of the GOP.
We have to see through this smoke screen, in order to see the truth, and speak of that truth to people: The Republicans, fearing the end of their relevance, have been employing dangerous tactics meant to grab power without gaining it legitimately through electoral success. They want to bypass the normal operation of the legislature, and run it as an arm of the Republican Party, even when it doesn't have the votes to justify it.
The plain message has to be sent: if you want to get reform, get change, one election four years ago wasn't enough. You have to pound and pound and pound on the forces opposing reform until they have no choice but to give up. To do that, you can't give up on getting what you want, or give up on President Obama, like some have suggested. No, to do that, you have to lead a movement of the people that runs against the forces opposing change until they are washed away like mountains before the force of might torrents. You can't do this half-assed, you can't just expect those who now have power and steal it way from you to give it up without a fight, sometimes a long, hard, exhausting one.
Now's not the time to retreat inside a hardened shell, hoping not to get hurt. Now's the time to assert your political will, and get every other American to do the same until we get justice, until the will of the people is served.