Saturday, March 8, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Revolution Brewing --- In The U.S. Senate?

Every month seems to bring news of a new revolution in
some part of the distant world, including Ukraine,
Venezuela, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, various countries in
mid-Africa, and elsewhere.

But another “revolt” is brewing much closer to home
--- in the U.S. senate. As in the case of the other revolutions,
the target of the revolt is a totalitarian figure, in this instance,
the dictator of the U.S. senate, majority leader Harry Reid.
Apologists for Reid, and those who agree with his policies,
praise Reid for his effectiveness in holding his Democratic
senate caucus together, thus enabling the senate to pass
some liberal and partisan legislation. Initially, this praise
had merit; the Democrats controlled both houses of the
Congress from 2009 to 2011, and Reid’s discipline, along with
house speaker Nancy Pelosi’s, enabled liberal legislation to
go to the Democratic president’s desk, and his signature.
Fair enough.

But Mr. Reid did not like to play by the senate rules and
tradition. The signature legislation of the Obama
administration, Obamacare, was so unpalatable to
Republicans and the public at large, that the legislation had
no true hearings, no true debate, was amazingly unread, and
finally was forced through both the house and senate by the
barest of margins --- and with literally no support from any
Republican, an extreme rarity for major new laws in modern

Later, when many of Mr. Obama’s judiciary appointments
failed to gain confirmation due to the filibuster rule, Mr.
Reid then used a parliamentary maneuver to abolish the

Since the Democrats have a 55-45 advantage in the senate, they
now only needed a simple majority to pass many bills and

Obamacare is not only very unpopular among voters, its
roll-out has been a political disaster for the Democratic Party.
The house of representatives has been controlled by the

Republicans since 2011, and the result has been confrontation
and stalemate.

Several controversial judicial appointments did pass after the
elimination of the filibuster rule, and it was widely believed
that as long as Reid could dictate to his members that they
vote as a bloc, any presidential appointment requiring only a
majority for confirmation would pass. Then Mr. Obama
nominated a controversial lawyer to head the civil rights
division of the U.S. department of justice, a nominee so
controversial that seven Democrats refused to go along, and
the nominee was rejected.

In itself, this “mini-revolt” was not so big a matter, but the fact
that it happened might be a very big matter indeed.

The Obamacare “disaster” has clearly given the Republicans
a notable advantage so far in the early 2014 national mid-term
elections. Not only does it appear that the GOP might add to
its lead in the U.S. house as a result, it now appears that this
political debacle might not only give Republicans control, but
do this by more than a bare margin.

Democratic senate incumbents across the nation who voted
for Obamacare are in trouble. Several Democratic incumbents
have retired rather than face likely defeat. The response to this
by the White House and its senate leader, Harry Reid, has been
to double-down on the unpopular healthcare reform program,
and insist that incumbent senators support it. Months ago, I
suggested that this strategy was politically unnatural and defied
political gravity. In effect, Mr. Obama and Mr. Reid are asking
their own senate candidates to jump off a political cliff as if they
were the proverbial lemmings.

A revolt, then, is inevitable. Republicans need to gain six seats
from the Democrats to gain control. At least 4 to 6 Democratic
seats seem already lost. But if the remaining Democratic senators
continue to support their vote for Obamacare, there is a very real
risk that the number of GOP takeovers could be as high as 8 to 10.
If the “wave” against the Obama liberals continues to develop and
grow, the number might even be higher.

After two Obama terms in the White House, especially considering
his present low numbers in the polls and his other controversies,
there is likely to be “Obama fatigue” in the electorate (just s there
was “Bush fatigue” in 2008). Supporters of Hillary Clinton, the
frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, or
supporters of other Democratic candidates, do not want to end up in
the position John McCain was in 2008, i.e., go through an arduous
campaign with no realistic hope of winning. McCain not only faced
“Bush fatigue,” it should be remembered that he had to overcome
massive negative public reaction to the banking meltdown.

Whether the motive of the president and the majority leader is
to preserve what they feel is their Obamacare “legacy” or some
other reason, their current basic strategy is untenable in an
national election year. Of the seven Democratic senators who
broke ranks over the justice department nomination, only two
were vulnerable incumbents running this year. The other five
were Democratic moderates-centrists who apparently just had had
“enough.” However, the political dam was broken. Seven
Democrats refused to be lemmings, and they are still standing.

This revolution has only begun.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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