As Mr. Gorsuch’s hearings progressed and the nominee, though forcibly affable, failed to successfully win over Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, or to the body at large, pundits began asking Democratic leadership if it planned on filibustering the nominee. Filibustering, the act of prolonging speeches to obstruct the progress of the Senate assembly is a strategy used by the minority party to hinder the majority’s ability to pass legislation or confirm a nominee. At first, Schumer was hesitant to say he would support such efforts, but late last week he confirmed that he would, in fact, lead a filibuster effort from his party. Since then, 26 Democratic Senators have vowed to follow suit, and only 2 have flat out refused to partake. This week’s article is not about Mr. Gorsuch’s hearings or how he will conduct himself as a member of the highest court in the land, there are an endless number of articles doing just that, instead, we want readers to look at this nomination within the greater scheme of American politics and it’s future. What I want to avert readers attention to is that, in becoming the new party of obstruction, Democrats — though perhaps well-intended — are doing a massive disservice to democracy and deepening the divide of American politics.
For anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for these past nine years, we’ve all become quite aware that party division has grown ever more present and vicious throughout our national dialogue. Aided by the rise of social media and communication’s technology, much of the American public have successfully entrenched themselves in their own ideology, seamlessly integrating confirmation biased news to personalize their stream of information and the amount of competing arguments or its quality. It is because of this we’ve grown accustomed to a near constant state of politicking. As the divide amongst parties continues to grow, the incentive for representatives to cross party lines and draft meaningful, bilateral legislation has been all but lost. Instead, our representatives have been given a simple lesson in terms of how they are to conduct themselves in response to their “opposition”: Oppose and defeat or you’re out.
One need not look too hard to find a trend developing:
One political party becoming the majority in either the Executive or Legislative Branch.
The majority party unveils their legislative agenda.
Voters and special interest groups within the minority party threaten their representatives if they don’t obstruct at every turn.
The majority party, also needing to secure their agenda under threat of voters and interest groups, pushes their legislation or nominees through the process altering rules or issuing Executive Orders if need be.
The majority party chastises the minority for limiting its ability to be successful, while the minority party rouses their voters with talks of how unsuccessful the majority has been.
Hostility and tension only increase between the two parties.
Another election cycle comes up and, more often than not these days, the minority becomes the majority.
The cycle begins all over again.
Our political process has, under the Einstein definition, become a state of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
But the new role of obstructionism will not be as simple for Democrats as it was for Republicans most recently. The idea that Democrats can easily become the new party on “no” fails to consider the ideology that is at the core of the Democratic Party, which is that liberals actually like to govern. Becoming the new obstructionist party will prove a difficult task for many Democrats in Washington and it is here where the party finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Democrats, returning home from Washington, arrive at their districts and are reminded of what will happen to them if they fail to obstruct Mr. Trump. Not even the top dog is safe. Early in January a crowd of protestors gathered outside freshly minted Minority Leader Charles Schumer’s home in Brooklyn. They were chanting and holding signs that read “Make Us Proud or We’ll Primary You”.
Personally, this type of liberal reminds me of Mr. Trump, not in beliefs per say, but in temperament and personality. Similarly to Mr. Trump, they care not for the subtle nuances and details that make government effectively function. They reduce the difficulty and delicate position in which Mr. Schumer, and his party, find themselves. Like a Trumpster, they value rhetoric and perception over substance. Success has been had for Democrats at town halls and protests where they've confronted Republicans and their proposed legislation. It is because of these efforts the Trump's health care replacement plan fell flat on its face. It is here where these Democratic voters need to direct their efforts; holding rallies, supporting organizations such as the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, not holding their own party hostage.
This is not all to say that Democrats should just roll over and willingly accept each and every Republican plan, but I urge those within the party to carefully choose which battles are worth fighting and which ones are merely symbolic gestures to appease their voters. One should passionately fight for what they believe in, but a rational individual can see that a dangerous cycle is quickly becoming the norm and these representatives also have a duty to govern at some point. I find it worrisome that in our current state of affairs, moderate Democrats and Republicans are demonized by their parties for being ideologically weak. Again, I’d urge those people who chastise moderates that it is typically moderates and centrists who are most concerned with governing for the majority of people and do so most effectively. We’re growing more and more accustomed to deciding between two polar opposites on the political spectrum with no room for common ground.
Many liberals will argue that if ever there was a time to obstruct it is here and now with this specific Presidency, but I would remind those people that at present, the greatest obstacles to Trump’s agenda thus far has not been Democratic obstructionism, but simple Checks and Balances which is exactly what our system is designed to do. It is also important to remind these individuals that the Trump administration will, one day, come to an end, and so to will the Republican majority in Congress, and when Democrats regain either or both, they will be facing a new minority party who is willing to return the favors in kind. And thus the cycle continues. Presidents begin to govern by way of Executive Orders and Congress begins to alter rules to circumnavigate their opponents. Nominees are labeled illegitimate and Executive Orders are turned over on day one of the next Presidency, as was the case for many of Obama’s on Trump’s first day. One could argue that in this new system, the majority party is actually less likely to secure the passage of legislation that will have a lasting impact. Legislation without any bilateral support and Executive Orders that can easily be overturned is quickly creating a system that is unstable and leaving the public in a state of influx, unsure of where they’ll be in two or four years or what rights, rules, and protections they’ll have. Distrust in institutions and government continues to grow.
Ultimately, obstructing Gorsuch is a lost cause and, like it or not, he will be the next Justice on the Supreme Court. Because, although a court nominee requires a supermajority of 60 votes in the U.S. Senate, the majority party can use what has become know as the “Nuclear Option” to eliminate the threat of a filibuster and require a simple majority to secure their desired nomination. This may seem a harsh move, but Democrats will be reminded that this “Nuclear Option” is one that Democrats used throughout the Obama administration to derail efforts from the former opposition party, Republicans. The words of Mitch McConnell as Minority Leader back in 2013 seem prescient, “I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you’ll regret this… And you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.” Starring down the barrel of a gun I think Democrats do and, in four to six years time, so will McConnell.
I fear one may view this article as a call for political apathy which, I believe, is the greatest threat to a democracy. In a bizarre way I feel I am advocating for the opposite, but unlike some, I do not give the mere act of political passion as being morally superior, politically correct, or even a smart move. We’ve given ourselves over to the soundbites and to the news that makes us feel good, not challenged or even well informed. We have, to make a long article short, grown near-sighted in our political goals and to secure lasting legacies and legislation we cannot continue down a path in which we silence and obfuscate our political opposites. In doing so we only create a larger demon across the isle and we forget what our future could actually be. I’ve said it once and I’ve said it again, fight for what you believe in and do so with passion, but also with intelligence.
The general public seems to have forgotten exactly how politics operates, and though at times the process may seem frustrating and painfully slow or long winded, it is a system in which political capital comes in handy and when you’ve run out, you’ve run out. I genuinely believe that if the Democrats conduct themselves with professional poise throughout these next four years, the election of 2020 will go very smoothly for them and we might even see a number of blue collar states return to the Democrats. During the next election, Donald Trump will have few talking points about how the Democrats obstructed his every move and instead it will be the courts, the press, and the voters who have rejected his agenda. As his early days in office have show, Mr. Trump has an uncanny ability to talk and walk himself in a political grave. What I urge readers to do throughout the duration of this Presidency, as long or short as that may be (God willing it’s the latter), is keep an eye on what battles your party chooses and whether it made you feel good, or actually was good. The two aren’t always the same. •