Senate Democrats say they plan to mount a campaign of resistance against president-elect Trump’s cabinet appointees. Here’s a simple question for those Senate minority leaders: how will you resist Trump’s nominees, now that Harry Reid dumped the super-majority requirement for confirmation votes? Republicans and Democrats both called it the nuclear option, and Reid did it anyway. If you ever want to illustrate the meaning of, “Now the shoe is on the other foot,” you have a simple, telling example at hand.
So what do Democrats plan to do now? Will they sit on the potty while their Republican colleagues vote on Trump’s cabinet appointments? Or perhaps they’ll insist a super-majority is required again. When asked about the nuclear option, they might say, “Oh, we didn’t really mean it. We never thought that nuclear option was a good idea.”
If Democrats had demonstrated even a cupful of leadership ability, or even a little political perspicacity during the last eight years, they would not have lost their majority in the Senate to begin with. They managed to drop more than a dozen seats in three elections – 2010, 2012, and 2014 – then gained a couple in 2016. You have to travel a long way back in history to find a record that poor. Perhaps the Civil War? For comparison, Republicans lost only three seats in the Senate in November 1974, only three months after Watergate and Richard Nixon’s resignation. I wonder how Obama, Reid, and Pelosi might have celebrated when they passed the Affordable Care Act, if they had known what was about to happen to them.
Now we know what happened. They ruined their party, though they will not admit that to themselves or anyone else. The Affordable Care Act, and its manner of enactment, symbolized attitudes about governance that contradict every expectation about how American democracy works. Yes, the act itself assaults liberty and rationality, but even worse is the sense of smug triumph that accompanied its passage among Democrats. That is what made the day of the Democrats’ victory feel so bizarre. To add to the atmosphere of bewilderment on the Hill, someone scrawled plaintive words on a sheet, and hung the sign outside one of the Capitol’s windows.
After twenty-five years of hyper-partisanship in Washington, Democratic leaders at last achieved what no one thought could happen: a partisan smackdown over an issue so consequential, with a bill so monumentally ill-conceived, people in and out of Washington could not quite believe federal policy making had come to this. In one long legislative campaign, American democracy had been Gruberized. Remember MIT professor Jonathan Gruber’s lesson for all of us: leaders who think so highly of themselves, turn out to be far more ignorant and foolish than the people they think they can fool. Gruber led the way, but all the Democratic leaders who fell in behind him suffered from the same pride.