« The Weeds

Dianne Feinstein, please listen to this episode!

2020-09-25

Ezra and Matt discuss the past and future of the US Senate.

Resources:

"How Mitch McConnell is changing the Democratic Party" by Ezra Klein, Vox

"America needs a democratic revolution" by Matthew Yglesias, Vox

Hosts:

Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias), Senior correspondent, Vox

Ezra Klein (@ezraklein), Editor-at-large, Vox

Credits:

Jeff Geld, (@jeff_geld), Editor and Producer

The Weeds is a Vox Media Podcast Network production

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Support for this episode comes from click up. We lose an average of three hours every day, switching between all our work apps, but you can get them back with click up a flexible platform that brings all your essential tools in one place. We can prioritize tasks, collaborated, docks check with your team and track goals, so companies like Oberon web flow use click up as their mission Control Centre, replaced, every other after we're using before cook up even guarantees to help you save one day week and get more done. It's completely customizable! It's free forever! So try click up today at click up dot com, slash! The weeds nine Feinstein, is listening to this episode of the weeds is all I can say
welcome to another episode of the weeds on the box media podcast network. I met you would place. He is here to day with as recline, and we wanted to talk about the Senate and about Mitch Mcconnell things that are on people's minds lately that that, as you know, recently had our great piece about so Mcconnell and and his role in the evolution of the Senate. I had some thoughts about it, but I think I will start off by just letting Ezra explain you know. What's what's what's your take on this and how did you come to sort of seem a camels this way. So I've been thinking about Mcconnell for years, because he he often ends up being the single most, both important and honest player and legislative politics. The person who is explaining what
incentives if the institutions are actually are, as other people moralist, follow them, but pretend to be resisting them were don't or whatever. It might be. Thought thus couple and people know this from the filibuster episode. I've been talking to Pretty Senate Democrats, but the filibuster and- and I mention there that I was struck to see the ice cream, King on how a lot of moderate Democrats or Vienna Mainstream Democrats were talking about the filibuster that people who had always been really opposed Is abolition or change or reform? We're suddenly saying to me, you know something something need the change here, I'm Joe Biden when asked him about to filibuster, he said what will see how obstreperous the Republicans are, in all these cases. The US was really the same. People were lying to rethink the Senate because it may recall, like they all said this to me- that they just understood, and this is a really, I think under appreciated ideological, such procedural difference from two thousand and nine Democrats came in with the that the majority round Obama in two thousand and nine
I Senate Democrats believed and Broker Obama believed they could get to send it to work the way it had in the past that mats Bokkis the Senate financed German cuts back then could cut a deal with republican ranking member Chuck rashly and that's how they would you healthcare and the like, had Kennedy cut a deal with orange hatch on something else knows how they would do. You know whatever I bid gotta, go down the line that way and Mcconnell disabused them of that understanding of the Senate over the course of it. Or is it just is got none of them, believe I'm it couldn't be. Who used to think that way that you can get anything done by trying to get support. The Republican Party when you're democratic majority, so that was many here in the background and I think, a really important way- and then you get Garland, of course-
which was the single most radicalizing thing that happened in the Senate, true Democrats, and maybe the country even more so than the trumpet away she Democrats during this period, but now you have Ginsburg and the Post Ginsburg reversal of the Mcconnell rolled Mcconnell Ass time says: The american people deserve a voice in who the next now many, will be, and so we're gonna wait for the election almond is your says how hot is getting and in the aftermath of that? What democrats her now considering in very serious ways, I think, is really necessary, not just getting the filibuster but BC importer Rico, which I hate it when that is framed as some kind of reprisal mechanism, like the presidency's importer Rico does representation because their american citizens, but also
actually adding justices to the Supreme Court to if Mccullough go through with this, because it Mcconnell says the only thing that matters on the court is the power you have to make appointments. Will they have a way of doing that to if they take the majority? And the big point I want to make on all this is that there is a way of framing this as an endless like tat for path and that sort of true there's a political scientist name, Stephen Smith, who calls a Senate syndrome. The ways you have this endless pattern of the minority finding ways to obstruct the end in the majority new ways to restrict that obstruction and that's been accelerating in recent years, but I think the bigger context here is it MAX or is there a hand maiden for a check and it is needed that is needed, half a confrontation, even a crisis. It is needed to happen, and it doesn't mean it will turn out. Well, it may not, but we are in a transition between different equal liberty, hymns of homer compulsion, worked, we are in the transition between the equilibrium that dominated the twentieth
three in which the two parties we're ideologically demographically, quite mixed. They could work together on all kinds of issues. This is descended. The Joe Biden speaks out with such fun. And in that sense it norms were imported traditions, were important. Rules were often not used to their fullest extent on the filibuster was, powerful in the twentieth century than it is today. You needed a two thirds vote for promotion of that period to shut off, but it wasn't use because the norms encourage senators to be restrained and how they did it. On Supreme Court. Appointments use have always been very important votes, but the tradition was there the opposition party will vote to confirm a the majority parties nominee or the White House nominees lungs and obvious qualified in not completely extreme, and that has fallen. Well, in a way that makes sense is a very ideological important about. So why would you confirm the opposition parties nominee? So all this has been happening I think what we're thing with Mcconnell,
who is, in some ways a very weak Senate leader. I think maybe wanted to be something different, but as it ended up sort of very much submitting to these forces to keep his seat to keep the Republican Party together. He's been this real accelerant for polarization in the Senate and he's had a big effect. The Senate himself as a leader in rules changes he's made in in stratagems he's pioneered, but I really do think in an optimistic possibility, not an optimistic prediction here. I really think that his big the effect on assent. It may, in the long term, be that he convinces Democrats to democracy as the Senate and through the Senate and enter what can then pass american politics, a kind of like bring appeared in american politics. It is more fish. For an arab polarize parties, which is in a period like that. You need majorities, governments, are they can like run on things, get the thing done and then run for reelection on the thing, and they I'm going to do that. It is only Mcconnell.
It is like that is his singular contribution in being so bald faced and cynical and aggressive and calling himself the grimly in the way he is screwed them over again and again, he is convince them that they cannot hold on always doing things, and he is Only force capable of moving Democrats into actually rethinking like the fundamentals of how the Senate might work again. This may not be how comes to pass, who made his clocks into crisis, but This is my optimistic story right now, I've there's a part of me the thinks this is a confrontation. We need,
and even more than that, a lesson Democrats have needed to learn. I think you know when we talk about lessons learned here. I think it's a useful to sort of put a pin and in a distinction here, because one thing about the Senate is it's unusual rules of parliamentary procedure and another thing about the Senate is it's unusual apportionment and these are distinct attributes of the United States Senate right around the world. Typically, a legislature operates under of one person. One vote whirl, I do want to say, is unheard of. I too have a disproportionate upper house of legislature, but another thing you see in comparative studies is that normally countries that have a non proportionate upper House countries like Australia countries like Switzerland, the upper house is less. Powerful than the lower house. But in Amerika the Senate is more powerful than the house because of the advice it could settle swayed. If you, you had to pick only one body to control. You would want the Senate
son, it is also more disproportionate than the australian Senate or that the german am. I voted, Scott Bundesrat. I think so it's it's a very unusual in terms of its apportionment right and power, then separately, it has this goofball procedural norms that that that you are talking about, but with the filibuster- and I think it's I think is useful in this regard- to take out a sort of trip down down memory. Lane hat you, you always like to talk about the the Medicare vote pound, which was in an era of strong fellow bus, yours, but that the Johnson administration, you know they just in their internal documents. They were counting two. Fifty right, like the the view, why are you going to tell the story? It is my favorite story. Yes, it would like it's not a lynching bell, so yet so this is and I want to give. I wanna give credit here is David Brook men are political scientist at Berkeley who actually turn me turn found. This document had sent to me way back in my washing apostates, but
there is this amazing memo that might mean at us who is Senate liaison with the person who run Senate relations for President Lyndon Johnson, so Lyndon Johnson. Like now send a pretty well gets a good gotta run it from some like bananas, since I'm here, but his boss, When did Johnson a note after the nineteen sixty four elections, and he says that if all the senators who won in lost. Our president accounted for in the new Senate. Medicare will pass fifty five to forty five, so they are not even They do not even think that they need to plan the possibility of a fellow buster as you sort of gesture to their met in this period, the only thing that gets routinely filibustered our civil rights laws. I mean this vile lotta people call to filibuster, Jim Crow, relic It's not true. The filibuster was invented around Jim Crow, but what is true, is it the usage of the filibuster to impose a supermarket requirement on bills, passing forward sort of what what Adam Gentle Syn
when arguing in his book, which is coming out soon, on called kills, which is very good of you- calls him like the rule, twenty two filibuster that was pioneered by the southern Balkans. The twentieth century are but is really only use when civil rights bills and later got picked up. His party polarization accelerated by parties but medic care they didn't pigmented care would get filibustered. I mean and back then you would have needed a two thirds vote to break a filibusters of eight. They would not be, can you can you imagine Medicare its wild? It's a totally wild it's a totally wilding, to really sit in and try to understand how differently american politics worked. You know just a couple decades ago well and then something that that I really think people should appreciate if they want to understand unison, what you're talking about about Joe Biden, mentality right and his em. You know his thinking, Democrats, thinking about this is one of the very first stories that I covered in DC had to do with it.
I'm Medicare reform that happen during George W Bush is administration, and this is a very convoluted sort of legislative saga, but the upshot of it was was that one version of a better care prescription drugs benefit past. The house and another version pass the said. The one they passed, the Senate had a big by partisan majority behind it. You know classic Senate Bi partisanship filibuster, leading to to compromise whatever, and then they went to a conference committee which you may remember from the schoolhouse rock video and how a bill becomes a law but actually has not been used.
Long time shows a conference committee and everybody is sort of sort of pre theoretical understanding going into it was that the conference committee process was going to have to be bipartisan, because the Senate bill was by partisan and house concern right. Wing congressional people didn't like this whole.
Anyway, I'm so. The final legislation that emerged was expected to look more like the Senate Bell, the bipartisan belt and the House Bell, but it didn't. Instead, the conference committee came out with something that was quite close to the Republicans bill in the House and MAX Bokkis and Zeal Miller, though defected, and they supported this in conference committee and it wound up coming to the floor of the Senate and he passed. There was something like fifty four votes, and some people thought that Democrats should filibuster right is that they didn't have sixty votes for, as though there were calls for filibuster. We didn't have twitter at the time, but if twitter had existed left wing to put her would have been talking about this, but Democrats didn't fill of US
red and what they said at the time was like what you can't filibuster conference report, and you know I was in the office and you know a sound, that's interesting. It's not true, though, that, like you, can't filibuster. A conference committee report is a rule that says that it wishes to. Overtime. We were no longer in that, like one thousand nine hundred and sixty understanding of the Senate rules, but as of two thousand and four, which was not that long ago right, the understanding was you, do a filibuster that way and that market is the story of the destroy the Senate in recent decades is simply mistaking the word can't for the word didn't exactly, and so I think the critical thing I think to understand about you know Joe Biden and a lot of democratic senators is that they were they
in two thousand, for you know I mean like it. It feels like a lifetime ago, if you're young person, like two thousand, what was a very long time ago, but just in political terms it seems like a whole other era, but so many of our people in politics. I'm still come from that error rate and to a lot of them. That was a better era and like it's not that far gone in the past and so their instinct. When anything habits, I can do that seven Democrats of the majority in the House and the Senate, and their idea is that they are going to pass a bunch of popular bills and either Bush will have to in them or have to veto them and look bad, but Cinema Republicans just filibuster. Absolutely everything- and so Democrats were like not happy about that, but there thought at the time was what we need to go back We need to go back to the old ways and what you are saying is that it's only now because of
Hardball really around the Supreme Court seeds that sent Democrats are giving up on the idea of of going back to a set of norms that you know, a were abandoned. Really quite recently ended centre Democrats themselves. I mean if you, if you ask a Democrat like what happened in the judicial wars, they will say that this garland thing was the most outrageous thing I ever saw republicans you know they talk about Bork, I think pretty implausibly, but less implausibly. They see that shortly after that Medicare Prescription drugs Incident. I was talking about Democrats started filibustering sum of George W Bush is Circuit court appointees, and traditionally you hadn't seen filibustered used for that. Right and Democrats will say what- and they started doing. That is Republicans changed the blue slip wall, which sort of let home state senators objective, be off any weight at the time. This was seen
as a real norm. Violation by by Democrats is what caused mark toughness to coin a phrase: constitutional Hardball because everybody, read that, like you were allowed to do that, you just you know, was one, those things that just wasn't died, but then Democrat started doing it, but they had. I even as Democrats did, that they sort of their goal was to step back from from the brink and and now you're saying that they're ready to give up on that yeah, let's take and- and I want to come back and talk about the very particular dynamics of Supreme Court nominations in this. If you're, a gig worker or self employed, there's some good news about PPP loans. You might want to consider millions of self employed workers may qualify for up to fifty thousand dollars in one hundred percent forgivable alone. You might be one of those millions as the leader PPP loans. Wobbly can help you find out. They have helped over three hundred thousand small.
Businesses across Amerika get a ppp loan funds are limited, so apply now wildly dot com, slash, vocs and see if you qualify for a ppp loan w o m p l, why dot com, Slash Veo Ex wildly not a lender terms and programme rules apply some about to make an argument that a lot of liberals. Don't love it when I make- and I make this in in detail in my book, but I think it's important to think about now, because I want to think about for a minute the very weird space Supreme Court nominations have occupied traditionally and saw one a phrase. The question is why what did Mitch Mcconnell do wrong with America Garland. There is no doubt that in the twenty fifteen twenty sixteen Senate session, the single most ideologically and policy oriented consecrated inconsequential vote on a policy level was the vote.
Or the non vote over America, Ireland. The question of whether or not this proposal would flip from five for conservative majority to of five liberal majority. I mean nothing was an important and so miracle in is nominated. He's a good qualified, moderate nominee. He's a nominee Obama. Things will put pressure on Republicans to confirm and because, or in hatches said, this is a kind of- we should have, and what Mcconnell does is refused told any hearings any good and I would say like That'S- that's real, dirty pool but like to go. The underlying thing here. What common really does say? The Republican party is not going to let Barack Obama filled a seat because we don't want him to
We like do not believe anybody, he picks will be good. We think it will hurt the things we care about and we take. Our voters would not want us to fill the seat this way, unlike an end and we're just gonna fight. This went out to the end, and that is how everything in politics has worked at that point. Likewise, that a surprise right, Mcconnell stopped everything he could on every legislative project that Barack Obama. We're trapped. He stopped everything he could um on every like judicial nominee on every executive branch. I made the robot ever try till it wise garland. A surprise- and the answer is traditionally supreme court nominations were treated is not eighty logic. Boats and when I began really looking into this in studying in and reporting on it. The thing that I didn't oppression,
is that there was a real logic to that for most of the twenty TH century, which party nominated a Supreme court. Justice did not tell you very much about how that justice would vote. The parties themselves were ideologically mixed. They did not have things like the Federalist society that had been like loyally, recruiting foot soldiers and then testing them forever, like would bring them up the ranks of american politics and the pressure on in all directions is weaker, and so you can see currently have these democratic and republican nominees who go in and just vote in a completely different way. Republican republic to become important, liberal icons in the courts. Or a warrant democratic nominees would become conservative like Byron weight. The camp, remembering that is correctly and in its own country, back and forth. So in this era of ideologically mixed parties
from court nominations. It's not that the stakes are less consequential, but the ideological stakes rollout lower and then because of these failures right because Republicans are so upset about what happens with David suitor, the parties begin to figure out How does that there, as the parties polarize and become radiological disciplined? They begin to figure out how to get there nominees better and the interest group lobbying on it beat becomes a yes to have as much more nice. So you you begin to have one What you might call like that? The end of ideological failures you stop having, like Republicans put up, people become liberals and Democrats put people become servant is on the quarter. Seen that way and as it happens, the court itself begins to poor eyesight robber. Pork is a good example. This, a very extreme conservative figure and Democrats reject him and you're still you're, still no in a transition period there, because then in Somalia is
nominated to the court and and appointed core. I believe its unanimous Ginsburg is very close to that and under Clinton, but so what would begin step and then is these pigs Can you get treated more ideologically? busy all radiological and then Mccormick goes all the way. With that and says we don't care about the qualifications at all. We will shrink the qualifications as literally irrelevant and just say that the principles we're not gonna do us, which we though I like your kind of like contrary in defence of Mcconnell here, but the weird thing is that, like he didn't actually say you're saying here right now in this fake procedural norm, and I mean unwell level like does it matter right, like I think, we'll be all right, the history books the correct way to collapse
we'll be Republicans controlled the Senate and I didn't want to confirm a democratic nominee but, like he could have said, look we're not gonna confirm a democratic nominee because we disagree with their judicial philosophy or, he could have said sure, will hold a vote on garland but will bring him down up. But instead he said his stated reason for not holding a vote on. Garland was nothing to do with ideology. It was this thing about not confirming justices it in an election year, and I mean I think, if you want to understand, like the rage of Senate Democrats, The fact that he came up with this fake reason is important there, because right. So I make that argument. My peace as well, and I totally agree that what I'm saying with it, the plenum China make with his like semi, contrary and look at this, is simply to say that the law check of the old system, was actually stranger than the logic of the new one I mean you're dealing with there is it for the Senate to work, and this is like my big point about this, and I want people to
way not that Macao was right like of easy. I dont, like Mitch, becomes influence on american politics, but the big point I want people to take away. Is it the Senate of yesteryear routinely demanded that Senators beat tray their ideological commitments and restrain themselves from using the power they have to affect the outcomes they want under the rules not under cheating under the rules, the powers they actually held in order to keep the place working the place did not work its rules. The place worked off of the ways that norms and restraint and traditions kept people from playing to the extent of the rules and as those norms and restraints and like the mixed ideological coalitions that lead to them have fallen. What we see and this is the transition we were. We are currently in. What we see is it in the room one of the Senate are not compatible with ideological polarize parts. You cannot run at this,
it will destroy, it will either keep America from governing or it will be. To a constitutional crisis. Nobody can solve, or legitimate see crisis by the way, which I think is potentially very near at hand that nobody can solve. And so we have a Senate that I would like? It's a logical way, never really made any sense at all, but it worked, and you know what it didn't work for everybody and I think, that's important to say to write like it didn't work for African Americans for the most of the twentieth century, but it like unto itself people who were in the Senate. They thought it worked, and now everybody agrees, it basically does. Does it, and so what's happened, Is you need rules? You had norms before that reflected the composition of the Senate and the way that the players
acted and you need rules now that do so, because what Mcconnell figured out, which is not a crazy thing to have understood, although I, like the amount of like you know, hypocrisy lying is very galling but like what he just figured out is that these are important votes and is going to treat them the weights everything else port, it boats and say what every needs to say to keep the Republican Party United on them, and I can do I've done the reporting on the common motivation through the very quick version of this is that he wasn't sure He could hold Republicans if Mcconnell, if Garland got to testify because like then they might look at him as an individual Domini he needed with them on a party vote. He couldn't become a vote where individual senators, her wing individual merits so like mechanism, bad actor in a hundred ways, but he's a bad actor reflecting the obvious and
it is of the system and then figuring out how to work through them, and the thing that Democrats, you need to do now is to do the same thing like accept what the incentives and realities of the system are and make a Senate that works in in those conditions because asking senators to not act ideologically on votes, as consequential as lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court is insane and it is not going to happen and so like. I have a bunch of ideas for this like I want to de escalate Supreme Court fights and I've been a long proponent of eighteen, your supreme Court terms and representative Oconnor just today introduced a bill to make that hastened. We really really really should do that. Everybody knows my like my like. A long dark punish, showed this point on getting where the filibuster and stay and and democratization but like you need something that works and what you have It doesn't work and become a basically acts as a psych constantly showing the delta between the Senate. We thought we had or pretended
have in the Senate we actually have and the politics we actually have. I like it's time for people to understand, he's right, like not good, just right piece, correct about the underlined sentence here and, like the point is and like take that seriously and figure out how like remake the play so worked for a modern political system, and I want to emphasize you know how from conservative viewpoint how genuinely unreasonable the proposition that, because Justice Scully up, died unexpectedly on a hunting trip, there was going to be an ethical shift right in the Idiot article Centre, gravity of the court, and that then you know what gaming and out further right that had garland been confirmed you he was of a relic
we bought a red democratic judge, but Justice Kennedy would no longer have been the pivotal judge right, which he had long been, and so we really raise the prospect that he would retire in a Hillary Clinton presidency. You would now have you know that the six three we should. The Democrats staring down the barrel could have on the other way and the idea that Republicans should just let that happen voluntarily because of unfortunate time death. You know it it didn't. It didn't really. Makes sense as much as like Obama, always, I think, to a fault sort of did the politics of reasonableness. Like that. The scenario he was proposing was fundamentally unreasonable that, like lifelong republican Party politicians,
which has give away a Supreme Court majority for no reason, because it was traditional to pretend they didn't know how a judge was gonna vote but sitting SAM Rosenfeld, who is a former colleague of of yours and mine, but also a leading historian of Congress here, likes to point out that traditionally it was people on the left who supported what you would call majority area and reforms in the national legislature, weight that the predominant
view of progressives, was that the committee system and the filibuster and the decentralization of power in Congress objectively favoured conservatives right that in essence, like very classic Congress will you have multiple committee is to separate bills. A conference committee procedure really increase. The number of veto points why this sort of like four veto points on paper in the: U S constitution, but the old congressional procedure created like nine and end. The progressive view was like this is an impediment to reform and exactly as you said, about that, the filibuster at the old Senate norms. They worked really well for you at senators and they were really poorly for black Americans and the progressive view was like this is a problem like we need to make the national legislature work for black people, but the problem
is that the senators like this system, like not just the segregation of senators but Joe Biden, likes to brag about how he's friends with the segregation senators. So what are we going to do and it turns out that progress has never really solve this problem. There were some process reforms in the seventies, but it took Republicans to create the centralized leader driven House of Representatives that progressive Democrats used to talk about rights. It was really Tom Delay who brought to fruition what used to be the for rights, reformers agenda for for the House and its Mitch Mcconnell, who has in your telling, which I think is right. Alleys brought the Senate closer to what it is progressive are doing. You can tell a story right who I like irony of history story, about the house in which you know things, Tom Delay did wound up being the tools that Nancy Pelosi used to get
party line healthcare legislation done in the House of Representatives in a way that it would have been possible the old wars. The issue with the Senate right is that the apportionment peace also comes into play here and that we used to have not only where the parties less ideological polarized, but the especial sorting of partisanship was not the same as it used to be so. The Senate used to have this very wrong bias towards rural areas. I mean it still does, but but the the biased rural areas was really important in things like votes on agricultural policy. I know you, you were really into you're gonna, like farm legislation, stop it
and you could really see centred apportionment bias, their legal, and we all have that we all that phase when we're younger yeah. Well, you know I like transportation policy right and end again like if you go back to like the Bush era. Servers transportation bill, there's stuff in their like really dumb stuff in there, which is purely because the Senate is biased towards rural areas, but it wasn't a partisan by right, like the hope want of those things, was that the farm bills and the highway bills were not partisan legislation. They were basically regionalized right, and so when, when I was that when I was a Czech Sumer in turn- and he was a relatively junior senator, it somehow fell to him to be like the floor leader for opposition to some hideous ethanol bill, because both the republican leaders were for it. But Tom Dash, all the democratic leader was, was also for it and he represented sent the code
today. It's just inconceivable that the democratic Senate leader could be from South Dakota, because not only would it be really hard for a Democrat to win a race in South Dakota, but if he did win, he would have to be such an outlier from the mainstream of the party like Joe Manchin. Is there from West Virginia but, like he can't be a majority leader right like his whole proposition? Is that he has to stand out from the rest of the Democrats and to me, like I see some people. This is certain jammer of person who is left of centre in their views, but also like step to really hate the Democratic party.
And so a lot of them will be like. Oh, you know like Mcconnell is just like runnin circles around these guys. He so good at politics. Democrats are so bad, but the reason which Mcconnell is so good at politics is that the Senate Map you know, according to day, was her. Man has about a seven point, skew toward Republicans: I've seen estimates as low as sex and as high as nine, but there's a really Big skew. It's really really easy to be good at politics. When you can win with forty seven forty six percent of the vote, as it were, saying, tunnel is not actually good. Politics, It is always want to note. This is his personal legislative record is quite poor and its critical problems for him over time, but I couldn't get Obamacare appeal done. He didn't get infrastructure done, he didn't get like so entitlement cuts down like their million things. He he's very good at opposition like this. Is I think that the key thing Gunderson about O Connell he's a genius opposition leader
indeed, as may be going too far, but just like he really holds his party together well and opposition. He is not a very good constructively to the reason judicial stop has become a set of his whole world is, it is like it is. The law common denominator thing. We can always hold the Republican Party together and get something done precisely because he's not able to hold together on the more complicated I'm like legislative bargaining, space of actual bills, where he's does not have a very strong record at all, and also I mean he's just he's, not good at the part of politics where you try to be popular and when more votes than the other swayed, if the, if the story of the twenty eight in cinemas terms had been that, because Democrats got far more votes than Republicans Democrats had majority control of the Senate, then we would be not looking image Mcconnell as a visionary legislatively we'd, be saying wow here, ok, a bunch of unpopular staff, and then he lost the election and now Justice Ginsburg has passed away
but the seats can be held open. Just hate Garland seat was accepted Also was the popular vote in twenty. Sixteen in the Senate ride so and an end in the presidency, so he keeps wields power ruthlessly and he's clear side, I think I think this is where we were Mcconnell does stand out is that he is unsentimentalism right. He is also an old guy who's been in the center for a long time and I'm sure on some level understands why it is that other colleagues, if his vintage, are nostalgic for the eighty senate- and he may feel that nostalgia and his heart, but he does not it influence his decision making rights. He does look at the board as it exists and make the right move, which not everybody in the Senate does slang. They are actors who follow institutional incentives, but they are also human beings and, I think, like if you look at
Democrats, behavior behaviour in two thousand nine, I mean part of the story. Is it more moderate senators Europe really wanted by partisan cover? The clearly part of the story is that they overestimated themselves. You don't mean like day they. They really thought that if they had a long enough conversation which are gradually something something good was gonna happen, and then in one just give up on that some Connell's shrewd, but he's not a great constructive policymakers. You were saying and is also not popular but he's playing hardball on this tilted playing field and Democrats, as it happens, haven't ok chance of winning a Senate majority this year, but something that you I've seen from.
But from the bowels of the d c c is like didn't with eyes of winning a Senate majority ever again, our kind of surprisingly bad. Yes, if you, if you run the numbers on this because of the way population is going if they don't do something like make America like more small democratic and conclude things like this importer, we go there. There does facing doubt a pretty much an endless unbelievable deficit. Gonna pick up on a couple of things you you're not because I do want to. I want a note to possible objections and and consider them for a second one is like issues a Democrat. Is this just the democratic narrative that that that were offering here, like our Democrats, exactly obstruction? did. You know exactly is aggressive on unreal making. After all, it is- We read in the Democrats who, in twenty thirteen, you know nuke the filibuster on Sub Supreme Court judicial nominees and on executive branch appointees. They would say, of course that was a reflection of the council's obstruction on those on those issues and in what I would say if you want to look at this is,
look at the difference between house and a democratic act in the Bush years and House and Republican to act in the Obama ears. So Bush comes in Democrats up a good substantial number them in the Senate. They work with him on the Bush tax cuts in the four round. They work with him that, as you said, on the Medicare Prescription drug benefit, they work with him on no child left behind I'm an even going all the way to the end of the administration. They work with him on comprehensive immigration, reform, which ends up failing because of a conservative revolt in the Senate and in the grass roots, but Senate Democrats really do not take with Bush like we are going to oppose whatever it is you offer. Then Obama comes in and like. Republicans overwhelmingly like reject him on stimulus during an economic crisis. They they overwhelmingly reject him on the affordable care act and then on literally basically everything so I there is a real difference and that difference made to some degree reflect that that Senate lean there more democratic. It is half do appeal to literally
right of centre, rotors right, definitional right of centre voters, but it's not the only thing going on there and I think it's all kinds of interesting stuff about Democrats being more transaction was policy party and Republicans being a morsel of. Do you like in the politics of urgent, like principle, did illogical party in and so on the earth- and I want to touch on here- is the fear, because I've I've offered a bit of the optimistic version of this, but a few rand like an endless cycled escalation which can be a failure mode. Four political systems and I've heard this from Send it Democrats, who afraid of all this is going. I've heard it from political scientists. Psych. Imagine the world were talking about, comes into play endemic commanded a year and they get ready to filibuster and they add to justice is the cord and they make me seem Puerto Rico, states and report Kids, come in a couple years later, like those of recession, you know in at the end of July, the term or video. You can. You can pick hypothetical here and they are now they like Markel evade was like we're gonna
Florence into too and make Guam estate, and my cat, you know, had all these like your counter, Hardball Things and I think that's a real risk here. You're just gonna, see a kind of like an escalation of attempts. To like one thing about the rules is rules could just be changed, for is political power. That's why To me, the really important thing is to make the Senate reasonably small democratic and make elections count because it like, then the american people can wait like there are breaks here. That are not simply like. How much would the senators like to control the Senate like there breaks and in terms of democracy and voters. Unlike what people willing to accept and what, like policy, they do don't like in terms of its outcomes and what people like other people and states not gonna, want their states broken up. So I dont, I dont, think that there isn't like an elegant. Unless we weigh did it do whatever you want, if we get into a tit for tat, but I do think it something it is worth considering. I mean to me: that's why you that's why the fundamental question for me, as always, how to structure the incentive,
if a political system well- and I tend to think democracy- is like the least bad of him but if you can use- but you know why We are in a moment here where we are transitioning from a political system. The again did too, maybe like shorthand Mossad here like worked ok, but at the cost of racial exclusion. Worked. Ok, but as what in Haiti Lopez calls a hare invoke. Democracy was a good democracy for white people and then, as it becomes more, egalitarian begins to come under much more stress and not the story tell it some a in my book by polarized as like. Now there's this guy shut up. How do you write the rules to make a multi ethnic democracy work and like the thing that any political scientist who studies multi ethnic democracies will tell, is that there are not many of them. There is some arguments thoroughly, aren't any of them, but there are simply not many of them in their not long running and they're just incredibly hard,
so we are in a way. It is worth saying like we or as a country right now facing a very difficult path to do something at scale. No one has ever done before, which is create a functional, stable, multi, ethnic democracy of three hundred million people end and end. If people listen to you, a billion people and pets are really difficult. That's a really difficult thing that has Philly has to be possibility for failure and crisis built into it, like it extra Kabli, and it just worth appreciating like that is where we are like that. Is it tat the political task of our age complexity? Unless that that I think is worth considering? That is one reason. The power these are not symmetrical on obstruction. I think is that republic. In his view, the government's steps in the kind of like solve people's problems. You know like coming in with with money to stimulate the economy
ample as a concession to political reality that you should have reluctantly make. Wait but, like their view, is that, like the government should not be doing a lot of stuff too to help people out, but with with their lives. Where's Democrats feel cross pressure rattling when Trump comes to them and his like, hey like, gotta get the economy going like. On the one hand, you know Democrats or not so naive as to not see that, like Trump would like to win the election that he wants to run on there and the strong economy, but also like stepping in with programmes right like dreaming up this six hundred dollar unemployment insurance or the special Pandemic Unemployment assistance programme like that's what Democrats
feel their fuel to do in the legislature. So just saying no like, doesn't it doesnt suit the like it thought it somewhat, they think would be proper outwards. Republicans are like a Obama wants to spend a bunch of money on stuff, be he wants to do it to boost the economy which will help him, and so that's like you know they didn't want to do either of those things. The flip side, aid. Is that Democrats, I think, get reluctant to do hardball measures affirmative heart, ball measures that will let them legislate more because a lot of democratic members of Congress, don't I tend to fight with progressive political activists. Ride like they see their role as being honest brokers between what the left wants and sort of what they were called political reality right, so that within need is for there to be a a reasonable republic
who comes to the table, and then they can be the craft. Authors of high minded compromise right, like the theory of the affordable care act. Was it we're gonna use like these market mechanisms to achieve the progressive dream of universal health care, and it wound up being, I think, like a little embarrassing to the architects of that programme that they Get me republican votes for it, because it meant, at the end of the day that they had to admit that they themselves were the ones who wanted to rely on market mechanisms and the private health insurance system delicate. There was buddy other than moderate Democrats to insist on those things and they wound up insisting on them, but the place, they're more comfortable operating in is we bring at least struck this deal with our in hatch. So here you go where they're supposed to be like legislative mice rose, and if you get a situation where you just say fuck it. We ve got the votes porter, because the state Disease estate
U S virgin islands are state, you know maybe qualms estate and now we're just like. We are going to write the labour law that we think America should hats right like we are going to make unions be like what we don't have any reason to say no to you other than we are saying. No, and that's it that it, it seems to be Democrats tend to be with right. Articulating the idea that I disagree with some of the interest groups on my side and that's why I'm not going to do it so they would like to have these sort of hopes and hurdles in their way. One of the funniest thing that ever happened was like. When sixty Democrats all said they were going to vote for the employee. Free choice act during the two thousand eight elections and the Democrats did better than they were,
putting too so suddenly they had sixty votes for this bill and they had to, like embarrassingly admit a bunch of them that they didn't actually want to vote for it and it and wound up not happening. And that's you know, that's something that I that I wonder about red. Like Biden has a you know a substantive policy agenda. There will not be enacted unless they get rid of the filibuster, but is this a much more moderate than what a lot of people on the left? We would like to see him do, and you know so. He still maintains this idea that he's gonna like having bourbon with eight weeks Republicans and get something done and, like I don't think, that's true, and I hope he doesn't think it's true, but it's definitely the kind of operation that he's most comfortable, There's only one place. I want to add an addendum here, which is it denounces you just offered, is true for Republicans too
and in a very important way that relates to why senators like the current construction of the? U S, Senate. As you mentioned, we play for Choice act, which is like one the great recent betrayals in America, in in democratic politics, there were of Democrats who signed into that open letter and then, as soon as it seems there playing with like live legislative ammunition like actually know, and people often ask a question of like wealth, which Bokassa ruthless. Why hasn't he got numbered at the filibuster, and the answer is it he doesn't want to he and the report gains, horror but like admits becomes little job is to mediate between parts of the party that often don't like each other, and this is like a something has been very stressful for him that he, you know he fought really hard. Tab is other guy. I think
grace and was his name tray grace and maybe beat Rand Paul in the Kentucky Senate primary and ran Paul one, and I got a huge humiliation for Mitch. Mcconnell mission coupled then takes on, ran Paul's campaign manager. Asthma couples own campaign manager in his next election. In order to forestall a tea party challenge to him Then there is leaked audio that comes out where Mitch, but cartels campaign manager whose or keep Artic. I work for and Paul again says, he's hold his nose to work from its Mcconnell, unlike Mitch, Mcconnell this guy take a picture were like me, he's gotta an arm around him and discuss holding his nose like that ha ha ha, Blake, no actual super humiliating and they were try not trying to laugh at all. So point is: there's a lot, the Republican that sort of republican base, one
to do that. Ms Mcdonald never wants to take a vote on no one. There was something they wanted to do that. He wanted to take a vote on which, in this case, was confirming your horses to the Supreme Court. They got rid of the Supreme Court, filibustering through second because they wanted to play with live ammunition like they wanted to confirm that guided the court just as later on. They wanted to confirm brick haven out of the court, but they don't want to vote on anything house, Republicans send them just like whatever it is house Republicans can pass and they don't want to have to fulfill a bunch of their promises. In particular, I think, to social conservatives. We talked about this a bit in the filibuster episode a few weeks back, and I mean that's a little bit true for Democrats too, but it's a way in which I think the Senate protects itself rather than the country yeah. It's gonna be awkward as a politician to have to tell people that you don't want to do do the thing they want you to.
Like that is an awkward thing like you saw a bunch of Democrats struggle with this in the primary this year or just last year, partially, where they had like they wanted to take over some of what Does this space in the primary, and so they sat on whose Medicare for all bill, but then, like Bernie Sanders, actually did run again, And then they will get a lot of questions on the unpopular parts it up hill and then it turned out that bunch them calmly Harris Corey Bucker among others. They didn't really support that bill. They just wanted to say the liberal activism yeah we're we're we're with you, and so that's fine. I guess it's politics, and and and both sides can do it, but like the filibustering that globally, we're Craddock Nature of the? U S Senate allows them to have his was unbelievable delta between what they have said they support and what they actually support, and one reads
it survives? Is they like that that plausible deniability that we would have loved to passes for you? But you know Senate rules had we can't do anything about like good God gave him down from outside? I kept us from doing it and that's true from a common to its, not the case. I think that Mcconnell kept the filibuster, because he's such a good guy love Then it is a case that he understands that the right wing of his own party is knots. Their agenda unbelievably unpopular, but there also really powerful and his party and he's afraid of what happens if he does not have that rule to hold them back. Yeah I'd die me that that's exactly, I think you know before we. We end this absurd. I do have you know mental model of frost out that, on my shoulder, who is telling me that the things our conservative say about all of this is that it's not long ago. That Democrats had a majority in the Senate and
but not so long ago that the Senate wasn't seen as having a partisan by s. So maybe the problem is just the sort of post Obama or you know, Obama second term partisan alone, meant and liberal should stop whining on our part casts. You know, I'm just gonna get more get more John tester energy up there in an hour candidate, for men too- and maybe even this- would create a healthier. You know less polarize his cause. You put this all always like a downstream consequence of short of demographic polarization of the parties, but maybe of Democrats said to themselves. Ok, what's in electoral coalition, that gets us too a neutral Senate. That means you now we need to be more culturally conservative, probably particularly I'm sort of gender related issues
and we will lose votes. Among you know, educated should upscale people, but maybe we'll do better with with were working class people, and so you know what's what's wrong with that. So my question to my friend Ross on this point, which I have seen him making recently, although I will say, is a good colleague today, sort of making my argument that the crisis is needed but my question for my friend Ross on this is ok. Democrats are actually literally running that strategy that is called nominee, Joe Biden for President and if they nominate Joe Biden for President and they win an election in which they actually jeweled but better among, say, older white seniors like are they gonna, have cooperation to govern in the Senate? From Republicans I think the answer we all know with one hundred percent certainty is, of course not. The issue is not the Republicans are going to stop Joe Biden from lake.
Making it. So no government form ever asks about gender again. The issues it they're gonna stop Joe Biden from expanding health care. They're gonna stop Joe Biden from passing in opiates bill. They're gonna stop to hide it from passing precarious, Stop Joe Biden for making all kinds of by the way the working family tax changes that Rossen Ryan put in Granville Party years ago on us Joe Biden, basically abuses the rules of the USA, it Senate and use budget reconciliation to do it so You can talk all you want about how you can construct different coalitions in american politics also to say, like I am not super friendly to the idea that we should use endlessly, except the systems. Unbelievably heavy bias towards white people Ross, his colleague at the Times David Leonhard. Did this calculation of couple months back
where he said. I'm running these numbers of about four memories. I could get them wrong, but white people have point three: six: senators per million people black people, something like point to six point: two three and Hispanics down in the teens. So there's a real difference in the power of the Senate gives the different races and they get it just gives like endlessly white people more power. Given that the power which traditionally willed it doesn't seem great me, and so the idea of like Distemper Rico, I really wonder, be seen. Puerto Rico were majority white places if they would be disenfranchise for this law and I think the answer is no- like it or not. Hispanic white, like if Porter Recall, was next
I had a whole and had Idaho's demographics either good be estate Emmi. This is pretty good evidence for that from that their history of New Mexico. Yes, I think this is just not a path to adjust Senate. I think, though, either the Ross thing that he will say, and he does say, is it Democrats got to use, do the Supreme Court taking issues out of Democrats back contestation and just like assigning them a constitutional status. It can't be broken and sell across his big argument is it. Abortion was pulled out of like democratic, small, democratic politics and, unlike over them of is so was gay marriage and, more recently on discrimination based on gender, and that, like that is a thing that you know. Maybe Democrats are right about democracy, but it cannot be denied see for like their bread and butter issues can have to be democracy for issues it like around a quality too
and that is the crisis republicans are forcing here, he's got to call them today. I think it was they're kind of two crisis here that maybe Democrats are right. You need to have more actual democracy in the legislature, but maybe Republicans are right that not so much should be taken out of democracy by the courts. I don't think it's really a principle. Take Republicans are gonna play they're like, for instance, trying to end Obamacare in the courts, but I can see your argument on that that we should simply have a weaker Supreme Court M and a much more powerful congress, but the Congress needs to actually represent the country as it exists. Yeah I mean I actually think both of these points of his actually point to the idea that Democrats should be fairly extreme in their behavior if they are fortunate enough to win in in two thousand and twenty, because it's of course true that I think to an extent. The way Democrats in the Senate played the two thousand and eighteen
terms, which is that a technical error? You know it's like they knew the map was really bad and then they just kind of acted like they didn't know that, and you know I do. High camp was going to behave with sort of resistance, liberal sensibilities, even though, like obviously North Dakota didn't support that. But the fact of the matter is like that also tells you something right. Like Donald Trump was very unpopular throughout twenty seventeen twenty eighty and he won with a minuscule share of the vote. Immediately betrayed a number of his most popular promises. Democrats, wine in the house, with a huge sweeping majority and it might have been tactically sounder for democrats- comes form themselves more to the map,
but that would have been an incredible betrayal of the american people right and so the strategy, the long term strategy of conforming politics to the map is going to be really tough on African Americans. It's gonna, be tougher Martinez. I think I think it's always most proximately in coming years will be very tough on trans people. You know cause that's a real. Issue that is its it so heavily loaded on an urban world by right at some of these issues related to section quality of gender and and engender difference it and things like that, and this is no good reason that people should have their legitimate interests permanently neglected by the political system. But that means that of Democrats win and they have the chance to change it like data
a girl. They need to do it right and they need to say that they are doing it for reasons of fairness and political equality, not as some like tit for TAT game because, even if, in some senators, individual psychology, it is a tit for tat game. It's like actually an important question of principle and it needs to be seen that way, and I also think this points about democracy and the judiciary they cut in favor of court packing, because people will say well. This is a slippery slope and everyone's going to do this all the time, but the reality is that concurrent majorities are relatively rare, really big unpopular Supreme court decisions are also real Thirdly, rare so even if everybody he caught, him quote packs the court's each time they control the House and the Senate and the White House at the same time that the Supreme Court,
hands down a decision that they really dont like, and that is also unpopular. That's nothing! You would expect to see happen. All that frequently right. And the expected behaviour reaction of the Supreme Court is to be a little bit more careful with public opinion. Ride so probably know Citizens United Decision possibly know Roby Way, right under those those kind of rules you be more guarded by the Supreme Court, makes tons of rulings. There's divided government. All the time and bringing more issue is closer to popular contestation? You know, I think it's not a bad thing. I mean I'm. I was very glad that the operator fell. Broiling came down lives that that the marriage equality case, but also want to pay
level. It was like you could both see why conservatives were frustrated to lose that way in the court's whether the legislatures, but also from a political standpoint. It's like created this weird out for social conservatives who hold like incredibly unpopular discriminatory view and the ever that they never had you either like admit that they're wrong or face defeat over it like marriage, equality was becoming popular and then just ass, Kennedy sort of due, to my mind, like saved Republicans bacon by budget snatching it out- and you know, I think I think Democrats should proceed fairly fearlessly on these France, which I guess we're just gonna Greer anyway, I hoped I in fine style is listening to this episode of the weeds is all I can say. Yes, she loves Pike Ass, absolute. We bring this up because the deck, what what did I say
then say she said something about ass. She wants to keep the filibuster, but but dear to the point you are making our learned and where we should rap is that Dine Feinstein really represents like the old guard of democratic the nurse who she represent, a very liberal state, very screwed by the hay by by the? U S, Senate in composition, and she wants to change nothing because she remembers, assented as it used to be in our twenty ago and would like to look like that and it's simply small He conservative on that and I have some boy I've I've. I really do have some sympathy for the position, but a lot for a lot of peoples construction like a lot of people to live in a warming world they're going to lose their rights thing to lose their healthcare than I can get healthcare their country's going to keep falling into like further level.
Repair and and and its risk wild and so like it's one thing for Joe Mansion, representing, like West Virginia born of the most pro Trump states in the union, to really try to walk this line in its super careful way, but Diane Feinstein, representing health, India, it's insane and so on, but but maybe she's between us and our end. This visible convinced her that democracy is actually important and head. California should have say like more voice in June. In the U S Senate down, the whole thing is wild. I'm I'm, I'm very frustrated had died. Fund stand right now, yes, well with luck at least summer, staffers will hear that send can come up with some some new talk and wants to yonder with soggy thanks Ezra, thanks ass in her Feinstein. If you were listening ethics, as always to
we're sponsored a producer Jeff held and that we will be back onto.
Transcript generated on 2021-05-15.