Asymmetric belief in authority

Most people on the mainstream center-to-left spectrum have been successfully trained, to respond to the paralysis of this Congress, by parroting the names “Manchin and Sinema.” Supposedly Democrats are soundly for change—even in the US Senate 96% of them want to do something!—and all the responsibility for obstruction lies with the Evil Bobbsey Twins plus all the Republicans.

There are multiple reasons why this excuse is unsatisfactory, and I will note some others below. But first, I want to revisit something I have posted about here, before.

If you take them at their word (and in this regard I believe that we should) then Democratic elites genuinely believe that Mike Pence, alone, could via some sleight of hand with note cards have literally made Donald Trump the president for 2021-24. They may also profess that this act would have violated the rules, yet the degree of alarm in references to that prospect, combined with other patterns, convinces me: they really believe that one (lame duck) authority figure could have declared that down is up, and obliged the rest of society to stand on its head.

Yet these same Democrats profess that Senate President Harris and Senate Majority Leader Schumer are essentially powerless observers. Their hands are tied.

Say what you like, but this is an extremely asymmetric belief in authority.

“Our hands are tied” is unsatisfactory for other reasons, as well. “We’re just a few votes short darnit” shouldn’t be taken seriously, given

  • The endless insistence from Democrats’ de facto party leader, Joe Biden, that Republicans are good reasonable people he can work with; if you can’t get 100% of the Democratic caucus’s votes, why not go make a deal and pick off some Republican votes?
  • The fact that we heard the same thing from the same faction and many of the very same individuals as recently as 2009, when voters gifted Democrats with a dumbfounding Senate supermajority; then, too, their excuse for not doing more was that they needed 100% of the caucus to move forward and they were a vote or two short.
  • The near 100% certainty that counting 48 willing votes, at present, relies on an overly optimistic belief that all the other corporate shitbags in the Senate Democratic caucus genuinely want to dispense with a Republican veto, and aren’t just pretending.

Then there’s the problem that over the course of four years when anti-president nemesis voting was on Democrats’ side, they made a net gain of two US Senate seats to end up with 50% plus Kamala Harris’s tiebreaker. Don’t tell me “2018 was a bad map for Democrats,” because I know it was; guess what, sweetie, the United States Senate is a bad map for Democrats. The premise that “if we just flip a couple of more seats they will give statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico and get four more dependable votes for Democrats in the Senate” is a Jenga tower of delusion.

Meanwhile, there is again this enormous asymmetry of belief in authority. Look at Ohio, where Republicans want to gerrymander themselves into guaranteed supermajorities once again, but the rules tie their hands; Republicans just ignored the rules and did what they want. The Ohio Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed that Republicans are violating the Ohio Constitution; Republicans just ignore that and do what they want.

Mainstream Democrats presumably whine that “the higher authority of federal judges have provided Republicans with a loophole, such that even though they are definitely breaking the rules, it is at the same time…” something something, I don’t even know, this is just nonsense.

It is very problematic for Democrats to tell us that federal judges have unlimited authority, such that rules are meaningless, and that e.g. the senate president does not really have the power to overturn every step of presidential election processes, but those Democrats fear that if Mike Pence had asserted such power, some Republicans in black robes would have backed him up and then he would have had that power after all. Claiming this, then calling on everyone to run faster, jump higher, vote harder, etc., etc., so that Democrats can “win” another round within this system where ultimate authority remains Republicans’, that’s about 11 different kinds of insulting.

Particularly because, really, this is not even entirely about judges, not even about federal judges. This is about one political faction which insists that ultimate authority must be theirs, and simply asserts that whoever and whatever aligns with their faction is where authority is found—and another political faction which I conclude is both too chickenshit to make a real stand over anything, and lacks even a coherent theory of where legitimate authority is supposed to begin or end.

Some people argue against Democrats “playing dirty too,” arguing that this just “plays right into authoritarians’ hands.” But I think there’s a difference between “playing dirty,” and having some principle of any kind over which one will not compromise, come what may. I don’t see that Democrats have anything of the kind.

Twenty-two years ago, remember, Republicans made and got away with making a two-way bet on who should get to choose the president. Expecting that The Electoral College might say “President Al Gore” while voters said “President George W. Bush,” Republicans prepared to denounce the illegitimacy of mumbo jumbo overturning a vote of the people… but when it did exactly that, in their favor, Republicans embraced it. Democrats meekly accepted that those are the rules and if a majority wants a Democratic president, the majority had better just run faster, jump higher, vote harder, etc.

Sure, Democrats (whose elites include tons of lawyers) have a bias toward courts. But I don’t believe that they have any consistent principle or firm red line for where authority lies. The principle is “rule of law?” Republicans have broken the law in Ohio, conclusively, and no judicial authority has ruled otherwise. The principle is “black robes equal supremacy?” Aside from all the problems inherent in that, I don’t believe that either political faction really believes it. Imagine some other history where two or three Supreme Court members died a year earlier or later, and a safe Democratic majority ruled against Republican lawbreaking over and over. How long do you think it would take before Republicans formed a consensus for superior authority existing some other place (which Republicans happened to control)? What do you think Democrats would do when that happened?

As I have said, though, these are only political factions. The substantial majority of the country which, presumably, does not actually want unaccountable rigged one-party rule by toxic fascists, bears responsibility for having no better defense of liberalism than a flabby, befuddled faction which forever finds excuses not to fight.

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