As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Long Republican March To Irrelevancy

With the new year, the new President and Congress are starting to spring into action. Obama and Pelosi are meeting on Monday to discuss the prime order of business, the stimulus package. Pelosi should have had a detailed proposal from the Obama team by now to implement, but that hasn't yet happened, making the prospects of a finished bill on Obama's desk after the swearing-in remote. That's not good, although the House is pressing ahead with hearings. What's more, there's still the prospect of a Senate filibuster. The WaPo gets their facts wrong, however:

Even if the House votes before Obama's inauguration, passage in the Senate is likely to be more contentious and take longer than in the other chamber. With an ongoing recount in Minnesota's Senate race and the process for replacing Obama in the chamber still uncertain, Democrats can be assured of holding only 57 seats during January, three votes shy of a veto-proof majority.

No. If there are only 98 seats filled in the Senate at the beginning of the 111th Congress, a three-fifths vote would need only 59 Senators to ward off a filibuster (I'm assuming the writer is using "veto" interchangeably with "filibuster"). So they would be two seats shy. If either Roland Burris or Al Franken were seated, that number would rise to 60 (do the math). If both were, Democrats would be within one vote of breaking any filibuster if their members all held together.

Where would these additional votes come from? The LA Times takes a look at that today.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Obama's incoming budget director, Peter R. Orszag, have met with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) about economic stimulus legislation. Obama's team has consulted Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), an expert on education, about school issues. Obama's choice for secretary of Transportation -- Ray LaHood of Illinois -- was a moderate GOP leader in the House until he retired this year.

But if recent elections are any guide, being a moderate -- one who supports abortion rights, for example, opposed the war in Iraq or supported labor unions -- is hazardous to a Republican's political health [...]

The election results -- by depleting moderate Republican ranks -- leave the congressional GOP more dominated than ever by its more dauntless conservatives, such as Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who led the charge in the lame-duck session that killed an auto industry bailout.

Moderate Republicans worry that their party's conservative wing is not going to change its ways in response to the GOP's election drubbing.

"I would hope that the more conservative members of our caucus would take a look at these election results," Collins said. "It's difficult to make the argument that our candidates lost because they were not conservative enough."

Collins is assuming that logic and reason has any bearing on this process. And she's being awful glib. Inside the caucus, it pays to be more conservative, not less. And Collins, who on tough votes typically goes along with the most extreme elements of the party, knows this.

This is bad news for the hopes of progress in the country. But it may also be bad news for the GOP. Sooner or later, their obstruction will catch up with them, and you can argue that it already has. If their ranks dwindle any more, they will have no power whatsoever. As Paul Krugman sums up brilliantly today, their strategy of racial division and polarization has less resonance today.

But America in 1993 was a very different country — not just a country that had yet to see what happens when conservatives control all three branches of government, but also a country in which Democratic control of Congress depended on the votes of Southern conservatives. Today, Republicans have taken away almost all those Southern votes — and lost the rest of the country. It was a grand ride for a while, but in the end the Southern strategy led the G.O.P. into a cul-de-sac.

Mr. Obama therefore has room to be bold. If Republicans try a 1993-style strategy of attacking him for promoting big government, they’ll learn two things: not only has the financial crisis discredited their economic theories, the racial subtext of anti-government rhetoric doesn’t play the way it used to.

Will the Republicans eventually stage a comeback? Yes, of course. But barring some huge missteps by Mr. Obama, that will not happen until they stop whining and look at what really went wrong. And when they do, they will discover that they need to get in touch with the real “real America,” a country that is more diverse, more tolerant, and more demanding of effective government than is dreamt of in their political philosophy.

Obviously, I don't believe that conservatives care about this, nor are they ready to be vanquished. Hopefully, they don't totally destroy the country before they are marginalized into irrelevance.

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