Justice Scalia has died. Out of respect for the recently departed I will only say that his service and dedication to the rule of law and the Constitution has been remarkable and that his passing must be a time of great sadness for his family and friends. Bless him for his commitment and bless everyone who mourns him.
With that out of the way, holy hand grenade did everyone get the pleasantries out of the way quickly. His body wasn’t even cool before the empty spot on the bench became a political football, with Sen McConnell (R-KY) saying we should wait for a new President in a year before filling the vacancy.
The politics which make it possible to even suggest such a strange thing goes to the heart of the problems deep at the core of our national dysfunction and disgrace.
With the election about to start winding its way through the nation in primaries and caucuses, can we start predicting who will win mathematically? The surprising answer is yes, we can take a stab at it – or at least lay down what to keep an eye on based on a few models. And the wonks of the nation are responding with perspectives and tools that allow us to do just that.
The short answer? The electoral map still heavily favors Democrats for a lot of reasons. But that doesn’t mean that things can’t change or that the nation will find a way to defy the models. No matter what, however, it doesn’t look good for Republicans based on the 2012 results, Obama’s popularity, and demographics that turn against them every election cycle.
Unpatriotic! Unconstitutional! Treasonous! Illegal! The reaction to the letter signed by 47 Senators telling Iran that any treaty signed will be un-done in two years was swift and brutal. Some of the harshest condemnation came from those who oppose any agreement with Iran, too, so it wasn’t just Democrats this time. But was it really all those things that have been alleged?
The short answer is that today’s popular media always hyperventilates, so something this unprecedented had to test the limits of hyperbole. Sorry, this blasted through the stratosphere of outrage! But the real problem isn’t this one action, which we can be sure our foreign policy and our democratic-republic will survive. What is more troubling is the new standard set for obstruction and grandstanding that tells us nothing, absolutely nothing, is going to be accomplished in the next two years.
The Democrats lost the election bigtime, far more than the Republicans won it. As a Democrat I naturally worry more about my own party and what we should be doing, but that’s far from the most interesting story. After all, the Republicans inherited the vacuum amid 37% turnout and approval ratings for Congress at around 14%.
That’s not a win, it’s a default. And it’s not good to have power without any strong mandate.
What on earth should the Republicans do about it? There are two main schools of thought. One is to show that they deserve to be in government by demonstrating competence, the other is to keep pounding the Democrats and show how bad the other guys are. Governing seems like the obvious choice, but the landscape that has to be crossed is full of landmines. This might be an interesting two years.
Will the Senate go Republican? Nearly everyone believes it is likely, and has for a long time. It’s hard to see how that will be any different from today, given the ability to filibuster absolutely anything in that body.
Beyond Democrats and Republicans, there is a third option that is growing – some kind of independent fueled chaos and perhaps a heavy dose of Joe Biden in the works. The possibilities are absolutely delicious for many reasons. Not only would it give us all something to write about, a Senate in chaos would probably more accurately reflect the mood of the nation. Here’s how it goes.