Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ending fascist control of our Congress

I think the biggest problem facing the country is the extreme polarization of our politics.  But there is a small window of possibility right now for a systemic change in congress that can marginalize the biggest source of that polarization, the extreme right wing of the Republican Party.  There is also an extreme left wing of the Democratic Party, but they don't hold the country hostage the way the right wing reactionaries do.

The Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has been continuing a tradition of the House instituted by the former Republican speaker, Dennis Hastert, in 2004.  That is to say, the Republican speaker won't bring a vote to the floor unless he has counted that a majority of the Republicans will vote for it.  

What that means in practice, is that a minority of House members - in this case the Tea Party, evangelical, and libertarian extremists - can stop any legislation by voting against it.  So, rather than needing a majority of the House, which includes both Republicans and Democrats, what is really needed is only a majority of a little over half the House, a majority of the Republicans, to stop any legislation. In other words, only a little over a quarter of the House of Representatives needs to oppose a bill in order to defeat it.

This empowers the fanatics of either party to rule the country.  This is not good for the country.  The heart of fanaticism is fascism, either of the right or the left, that is to say, authoritative dogmatic zealotry for an ideology that allows no compromise or flexibility. The House of Representatives has been in the grip of intransigent fanaticism since the zealous rise of the Tea Party in 2010.  The zealots have always been there and have always done as much damage as they were able to do so, on both sides of the spectrum, long before 2010, but the country has been crippled for the last couple of years by these right wing  fanatics.

So, here we are facing the fiscal cliff.  

The president and the Senate can easily come up with legislation that will pass the Senate and be signed by the president into law that will raise taxes and cut spending and avoid the catastrophic effect of going over the fiscal cliff and severely damaging the economies of the U.S. and the world.  And, that legislation would be able to be passed by a vote of the entire House of Representatives, a combined vote of all Democrats and all Republicans.  The only thing that would stop that vote passing the House would be if the Republican Speaker refuses to put it on the floor unless he can get a majority of his Republicans to vote for it before he puts it on the floor.  And, of course the fanatics won't vote for it so they will stop it, once again.

The only hope, therefore, for the country to avoid the fiscal cliff is if Boehner puts it on the floor in violation of the majority of the majority tradition.  Put it on the floor for a vote even if a majority of the Republicans will vote against it. One can certainly assume, for example, that the former V.P. nominee, Paul Ryan, will vote against it.  A good thing he is not going to be the real V.P. of the country, or so it seems to me.

This will take a remarkable act of courage on the part of Boehner to do, since doing so may end his speakership and his political career.  He may plan to put off this decision until after the vote for the Speaker of the new House on January 3, 2013.  This is more than a matter of personal pride for John Boehner.  If he is challenged and beaten by a fanatic, that would be very bad news indeed for the country. We need politics in the House of Representatives to return to being politics, i.e. deal making and compromising to get the best each side can manage in the negotiating process of actual politics.  We cannot continue to be held hostage to the fanatical intransigence of about a quarter of the elected representatives in the House.

So, perhaps we don't get the bill to the House floor until the first week of January.  But if we do, and do so by abandoning the "majority of the majority" tradition of the last nine years, we will be seeing a needed structural change in the House of Representatives.  The Speaker will still decide what gets voted on, but he will no longer be held captive by his own party in making those decisions.

This applies in the future, regardless which party gets in power.  There is no doubt in my mind that the Democratic Party has the same kind of fascist authoritative dogmatic zealotry on the left that allows no compromise.  The country needs to insist on freedom from zealots.  This is a window of opportunity to free the House of those fascist tactics.

In addition, it appears that the Senate will also grapple with a way to free the Senate from the fanatical, fascistic tactics of the minority to stop legislation by abusing the filibuster rule.  I haven't read enough about the options being considered, but I believe that the essence of the filibuster can be maintained, i.e. slowing down legislation in order to allow extended debate and deal making, without crippling the Senate into inaction.  The Senate was not designed by our Founders to need 60% votes to pass legislation.  So, there should be a way out of that mess as well.

One can hope and pray...