Republicans Caused All Filibuster Abuse

Filibuster AbuseAs we say goodbye to filibuster reform, let us take a moment to get really clear on where the blames lays for turning the filibuster into a weapon of mass destruction. More and more when I talk to conservatives, the best they can say about how badly their party acts is the centrists’ lament: both sides do it! But that is quantitatively wrong.

About a year and a half ago, one of Kevin Drum’s readers created the following graph. It shows how the use of the filibuster has grown. The red data points indicate when the Republicans were in the minority and the blue points indicate when the Democrats were. The most obvious thing to notice is that all the increases in the use of the filibuster are due to the Republicans. A more subtle point is that the Democrats have actually reduced the use of the filibuster.

Filibuster by Party

This gets to the core of the problem with the “both sides do it” meme. When the Democrats brought down the use of the filibuster in the 90s and 00s, they were given no credit for it. In addition, it didn’t change the behavior of the Republicans that followed them. Every time the the Republicans have been in the minority, they have pushed the use of the filibuster all the more.

This behavior is shameful and the Republicans should be publicly shamed. But instead, all their bad behavior is glossed over with, “Why can’t the two parties just get along?!” As this graph shows, the Democratic Party tries to get along. And the reaction of the mainstream media is still, “Why can’t the two parties just get along?!” The answer is staring right at them from the teleprompter.

Krugman Challenge

Paul Krugman claims, “If [the following video] doesn’t make you smile, something is wrong with you.” Dare you take the Krugman Challenge?

Click below the fold for my reaction.

This song did quite a bit more for me than just make me smile. It’s real foot tapping music. The band is Elephant Revival. I don’t know quite what to call them. They have a great kind of modal thing going on, which they combine with catchy melodies and a quirky style. What really strikes me about them is that they aren’t great musicians. It just shows the power of simple music earnestly delivered. I really want to hear more from them.

And that washboard solo is better than any drum solo I’ve ever heard.

Republican Tax and Spending Bind

Matt YglesiasMatt Yglesias tries to get to the bottom of the Republican position of taxes and spending. But I’m afraid he’s being a bit too clever. Or something. He correctly points out that Republicans don’t want to raise taxes and also don’t want to cut Medicare and Social Security. But as he says, the question is why. His answer? “Republicans want to want to roll back the welfare state but on some important level don’t actually want to do it.”

There is something to this, of course. Conservatives may be for dismantling the government in the abstract. But actual politicians want to have power and the smaller the government the smaller their power—in a democracy anyway, where you don’t have the power to, “Off with their heads!”[1] There is also a practical side of this. Republicans aren’t stupid. They know that Medicare and Social Security are hugely popular programs, even with their wacky base. So they would be even crazier than they normally seem if they cut those programs.

So that’s all good. But I don’t think this is crux of the matter. Republicans have long had a meme that says that there is a huge amount of waste in government. I remember this from when I was a kid. It is just something that all conservatives know because all other conservatives know it. The problem, of course, is that it really isn’t true. If you cut government spending, it will hurt people. But conservatives “know” that this isn’t the case; cutting spending will just be taking money away from “welfare queens driving Cadillacs.”

And this is a big big big problem for conservative politicians. Sure, they may know that there really isn’t anything to cut—at least not much that their base won’t hate them for cutting. So they are left with ranting about too much spending but without any spending cuts to enact.

But that’s the price you pay for being in a party that has literally no good policy ideas.

[1] In case you missed the reference; although in this version, the Red Queen never says that exact phrase: