Counterpoint: The 6 January Commission and the Filibuster

I think this underscores the problem with the 60-vote requirement.

I am going to disagree with my friend and co-blogger, James Joyner, on this following assessment of the current situation in that Senate as it pertains to the fact that legislation to call a 9/11-style commission is likely to die in the Senate due to its rules which largely require a 60-vote majority to pass bills:

The irony is that, to the extent there’s an argument for keeping the filibuster and thwarting the will of a majority of voters, this sort of bill is it. It’s an incredibly contentious issue that divides the country on regional and party lines and therefore shouldn’t be rammed through on a 50 percent plus 1 basis.

First, I object (and not just here, as I see it other places) to the notion that legislation that passes with a 50%+1 constitutes being “rammed through.” A majority is a majority and we, as a country need to come to terms with this. I would note that the “rammed through” formulation, or like locutions, are not unusual when it comes to talking about things like 50%+1, so I consider this a broader critique than just aiming it at James. “Ram” suggests brute force. Having the most votes is not brute force. It is having the most votes.

Why is having 51 votes “ramming” and 60 isn’t? What makes a given vote brute force? What margin? Is 55-45 brute force? If the 51-50 vote is bipartisan, does it cease to be brute force? (Again, I am not picking on James, I am addressing what I see as a common approach to these outcomes).

I expect no one here can tell me the margins of any legislation ever passed. Whether a bill passes by 1 vote or passes unanimously, it is called the same thing, a law.

We have this weird national fantasy that there is a way to make governing more bipartisan. This sounds nice, but it is not realistic given the way the parties are now sorted (and have been for quite some time). This is not to say that there can’t be bipartisanship, such as the new hate crimes bill, but it is not a magic outcome that can always, or even should, be produced.

If bipartisanship on hard issues was easy, we wouldn’t have two parties, we would have but one.

I would further note that if the filibuster is supposed to generate bipartisanship, it won’t do so here. It simply gives the GOP a veto. How is that not brute force of a worse kind?

This is also where I note that that veto is wielded by Senators who represent far fewer Americans than do the 50 who maintain their slimmest of majorities in the chamber.


All of what I have written is both true, and a typical critique of the filibuster/the functioning of the Senate, but isn’t the biggest reason I disagree with James’ assessment. The 60-vote threshold here is not protecting some alleged ideological rift in the country on policy that Republicans are mustering all their political tools to stop, including the super-majority rules of our second chamber.

No, they are using the peculiar and unrepresentative structure of the Senate to protect themselves from their complicity in how the events of January 6th have been spun by their own co-partisans as part of their own re-election strategies. They don’t want the spectacle of Kevin McCarthy having to testify about what he spoke to Trump about during the insurrection, among other potentially embarrassing/telling outcomes. They don’t want a spotlight on the fact that the Capitol was assaulted primarily, if not exclusively, by people who supported Trump.

They want to ignore as much of the reality of the situation as they can while keeping alive the Big Lie enough to use it to restrict voting at the state level and to motivate their voters in 2022.

There is no principle being upheld here. While it is true that this is “an incredibly contentious issue that divides the country on regional and party lines” it isn’t a division wherein the “small states” have a policy need that needs to be blocked from the dominance of the “large states” or whatever other theory of “representation” (scare quotes intended) that the Senate is supposed to embody.

They are protecting themselves.

What this current situation does is lay bare the problem of the Senate giving the minority a veto, plain and simple.

This is a self-serving political maneuver in the interest of protecting their co-partisans in, at a minimum, rhetorical complicity with insurrectionists.


I will conclude by saying that I share James’ doubts about the efficacy of a 9/11 style commission on this topic, as well as with the fact that a lot of this behavior is about election strategies going into 2022, but will leave those items for another time.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2020, Campaign 2022, Democratic Theory, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    My sentiments around the filibuster were formed long ago, when the parties were less sorted, and I’m much less attached to it than I was. But we’re an incredibly diverse and, at times, polarized country. I don’t think we should make monumental changes in public policy on a 50% plus 1 basis. (Again, it gets more complicated given how the Senate and, to a lesser degree the House, over-represents certain interests.)

    We’re in agreement about what a commission would show. But, then again, little of this is unknown. But, given that the attack on the Capitol was political and partisan, the investigation will simply further spotlight that. And, while McConnell is a cynical bastard, I do think he’s genuinely trying to get his party past the Trump era and steer it into a more politically effective path. The commission would make that harder.

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  2. Slugger says:

    One of the underlying principles that allow our government to work is the requirement to quietly accept a majority decision. In 2000, Al Gore accepted the victory of George Bush. In today’s climate that could have turned into a very divisive battle. Bush won Florida by 800 votes. Trump lost Arizona by 10,000 votes, and yet we have controversy, clownish controversy but controversy nevertheless. We need serious politicians, but we vote for clowns.

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  3. @James Joyner:

    I don’t think we should make monumental changes in public policy on a 50% plus 1 basis.

    TBH, I don’t see a 1/6 commission as a monumental policy change.

    And, regardless, I have no problem with 50%+1 passing legislation (especially when it has to pass two chambers and can be vetoed by the executive–it would be a different argument, perhaps, if we were talking unicameral parliamentarianism). This would especially be true if voters could react at the next election if such changes were truly a bad idea.

    But more importantly, I would argue that you are allowing yourself to look to accept the construct that super-majorities end up creating compromises that protect against small bare majorities when, in fact, all they do is allow minorities to stop what majorities want.

    The very term “super-majority” creates, in my view, an illusion. It makes us think we are just trying to build a bigger majority, but super-majority requirements do not empower majorities, they empower minorities who can either extract concessions or, more likely, just stop things they don’t like.

    I get the notion that broader support is better, at least in theory, for narrower support, but I think that the question here (and in general about the Senate) is if 50+1 is ramming a bill through, why is 40+1 stopping a bill a superior outcome?

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  4. Kingdaddy says:

    Bipartisanship is a means to an end. It is not an end in itself.

    Presumably, if you can get legislators from both parties to back a bill, it’s more likely to pass. It’s a means to the end of passing legislation. But it’s not required to get the required number of votes.

    Presumably, if you get a mix of legislators from both parties to vote for the bill, it’s likely to be more durable. There are good reasons why both parties want to see the new law stand, because they both agreed it was a good idea. But the composition of legislatures change with new elections, and the reasons for the durability of votes often have little to do with the bipartisan support for it. The Affordable Care Act has survived many challenges, in spite of the lack of Republican support, because it’s now woven into American society. Plus, it addressed a lot of issues that voters wanted fixed, such as the arbitrary and cruel punishment for having a pre-existing condition.

    Sure, I want to see bipartisanship, whenever possible. But we don’t need to belabor the point that, in the current political reality, only a tiny fraction of legislation is going to get bipartisan support. The business of government should continue. If there is any “ramming” going on, it’s the Republican body-blocking of Congress’ ability to play its part in governing by passing legislation. A slight majority in passing a bill or a budget is hardly “ramming through” anything.

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  5. @James Joyner:

    And, while McConnell is a cynical bastard, I do think he’s genuinely trying to get his party past the Trump era and steer it into a more politically effective path. The commission would make that harder

    And BTW: I think he wants that not because it is good for the country, but because it is good for his party.

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  6. Kingdaddy says:

    More on what genuinely feels like “ramming”:

    The ability to filibuster without actually doing through any Mr. Smith Goes To Washington-like effort, just declaring that you’re filibustering, feels a bit like the sort of imperious denial that only a truly and undeservedly privileged minority could ever hope to succeed at doing. And then to wail that a simple majority is “ramming through” something…

    Or how about the procedural hijinks that the Senate Majority Leader has used to ram through a last-minute Supreme Court candidate, as well as other nasty outcomes? None of which you could call “bipartisan”?

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  7. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I think forcing a larger consensus on major policy shifts makes sense. But we agree that it’s not sustainable as a regular feature of governing, especially when parties (mostly one party) will use that power simply to defeat the prospects of the other rather than to get compromises to make the policy more in alignment with their preferences.

    @Steven L. Taylor: Oh, absolutely. But the hope of elections is that the desire to win will force parties to do what’s best of the country even if for self-serving reasons.

  8. @James Joyner:

    I think forcing a larger consensus on major policy shifts makes sense.

    I think this makes sense, to a degree, in the abstract. But I have several thoughts as it pertains to the concrete.

    First, having a super-majority requirement does not produce consensus. (And it certainly isn’t in this case). For sure there is no evidence that a 60-vote ceiling has produced useful bipartisan governance (and the degree to which there is consensus, it would almost certainly have existed without the 60 vote requirement).

    Second, while consensus, in the abstract, may be better than a bare majority, I still say a bare majority is better than a minority besting that majority.

    Third, consensus is not guaranteed to produce a qualitatively better outcome.

    But the hope of elections is that the desire to win will force parties to do what’s best of the country even if for self-serving reasons.

    While I 100% agree with this notion, as you know, my point is that the reason he wants to move and not address the Trump Era nakedly partisan and not in the country’s internet.

    I don’t think it is to our national good to ignore Trump, the damage he did, and especially not to ignore 1/6.

    I think there is long-term damage in not confronting this issue.

    TBH, the main problem with the minoritarian features of our system is that it is heavily short-circuiting this: “the desire to win will force parties to do what’s best of the country even if for self-serving reasons.”

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  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I think someone in the discussion wants “our long national nightmare to be over” (shades of Nixon F. Ford). It’s broken, folks, and there’s no shade tree tinkering for it.

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  10. gVOR08 says:

    Sorry, but this discussion of ramming through legislation recalls Trumps famous, “Our (Revolutionary War Continental) Army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over airports…” And Biden is supposedly a gaffe machine. The mental picture I have of soldiers ramming the ramparts looks a lot like Trump humping a flag.

    This ramming stuff through without bipartisan support seems to come up only when Ds do it. I think that’s for two reasons. One, Rs don’t want to ram anything through except tax cuts and judges. And now at the state level Rs are ramming through voting legislation without bipartisan support. Two, the biases of the supposedly liberal MSM and their “soft bigotry of low expectations” toward Rs.

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And BTW: I think he (McConnell) wants that not because it is good for the country, but because it is good for his party himself.

    Sorry, but I felt that could be clarified.

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  12. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: As noted in the other thread, I don’t think a winner take all style of governance works in a society as pluralistic as ours. We’re not Iraq, where Shia rule means the Kurds and Sunni are simply hosed, but we’re not England, Japan, France or Germany either.

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    You’re right, we’re none of those other countries, we’re the world’s reigning superpower sending the message to the world that the government in possession of thousands of deliverable nuclear weapons, the country with a 20 trillion dollar economy, the country that has postured as the defender of freedom and democracy around the world, is so fucking paralyzed it cannot even investigate terrorist attacks on its seat of government.

    You’re right we’re not France, we’re Guatemala, the world’s biggest banana republic.

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  14. @James Joyner:

    As noted in the other thread, I don’t think a winner take all style of governance works in a society as pluralistic as ours. We’re not Iraq, where Shia rule means the Kurds and Sunni are simply hosed, but we’re not England, Japan, France or Germany either.

    I have to be honest–this strikes me as a non sequitur insofar as I would find winner-take-all to be more problematic in a Shia/Sunni divided country than ours and I don’t understand the inclusion of England, et al.

    But more importantly: how is minority-gets-to-stop governance better for our society?

    6
  15. @Steven L. Taylor: And, again, having the Senate run by majority rule isn’t “winner-take-all.”

    Political power in the US is divided by federalism, but bicameralism, by separation of powers, not to mention a powerful judicial system.

    The notion that letting legislation pass the Senate by majority rule is simply not winner-take-all.

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  16. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    And, while McConnell is a cynical bastard, I do think he’s genuinely trying to get his party past the Trump era and steer it into a more politically effective path. The commission would make that harder.

    I’d appreciate you explaining how the Commission would make it harder for McConnel to get the GOP past the Trump era. There’s no secret tunnel back to a politically effective conservative party that avoids confronting their seditious behavior of the last several months. Effectiveness requires at least a modicum of credibility. The GOP can have no credibility while it continues to downplay or deny the Capitol riot. It certainly can not be credible while it perpetuates The Big Lie.

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  17. Teve says:

    Look, folks, we can’t have an investigation into the bank robbery when the only people who support the investigation are the bank employees, the police, the detectives, the prosecutors, the mayor, and the citizenry. If the bank robbers’ friends don’t support the investigation, how can that Even be legitimate?

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  18. Scott F. says:

    While it is true that this is “an incredibly contentious issue that divides the country on regional and party lines” it isn’t a division wherein the “small states” have a policy need that needs to be blocked from the dominance of the “large states” or whatever other theory of “representation” (scare quotes intended) that the Senate is supposed to embody.

    Amen, Steven. This is a division between Fact and Fiction. While a Jan 6 Commission won’t change the minds of anyone who has committed themselves to the Fiction, there are those who are persuadable who hold our democracy in their hands. The assault on our democracy that occurred on January 6th is exactly the kind of situation that requires maximal exposure and transparency in order to convince people of the threat.

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  19. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I do fear that we’re irretrievably broken, as self-interest is forcing otherwise decent Republicans to back the Big Lie and getting too many absolute nutjobs into office via a bizarre primary environment.

    Trump was impeached by the House, with some Republican votes, and acquitted in the Senate (it’s a huge hurdle even in ordinary times) despite a few Republican votes to convict. And the Justice Department looks to be prosecuting the perpetrators of the actual break-in. But I don’t know that we’ll ever fully know the degree to which GOP Members were complicit.

    @Steven L. Taylor The filibuster and the Commission are really two separate issues that have been tied together here. But my point is that we’re much less of a true nation-state than those other countries. We have some major cleavages that have lately become extremely reinforcing, with the cross-cutting aspects much thinner and weaker than they were even 15-20 years ago. Having changes that half the country objects to on the basis of Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote is not a recipe for healing. Alas, neither is a recalcitrant minority blocking not only the things Biden ran on to an 8-million-vote victory but even things that are broadly popular with Republican voters. Hell if I know the solution.

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  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    But I don’t know that we’ll ever fully know the degree to which GOP Members were complicit.

    Well, we sure won’t if we don’t investigate, will we? @Teve has it exactly right: we’re deferring to the suspects. Do you really not understand that a significant number of Republicans are readying themselves to overthrow the elected government of the United States? So that gets a shrug and a ‘whaddya gonna do?’ Your country is under the most serious threat since the Cold War. You’re a soldier, FFS. Job #1: protect and defend the constitution.

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  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: And, while McConnell is a cynical bastard, I do think he’s genuinely trying to get his party past the Trump era and steer it into a more politically effective path.

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA….

    10,000 unemployed comedians in the US and here you are giving it away for free. McConnell cares about one thing and thing only: The acquisition and wielding of power.

    8
  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: I don’t think we should make monumental changes in public policy on a 50% plus 1 basis.

    Also, I don’t think a commission to look into the events of 1/6/21 is about making “monumental changes in public policy”. To my eye it’s about upholding the Constitution, as it is currently written. It would appear that some people find that to be a rather radical position to take.

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  23. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Here’s a thought: Require 60 votes to elect the Senate Leader. Good luck with that.
    Or how about 60% minimum of the popular vote to elect the president (or a 60% popular vote within a state to select electors)

    You think the country would be in gridlock????

    7
  24. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    Having changes that half the country objects to on the basis of Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote is not a recipe for healing. Alas, neither is a recalcitrant minority blocking not only the things Biden ran on to an 8-million-vote victory but even things that are broadly popular with Republican voters. Hell if I know the solution.

    It may not work, but the only possible solution requires your “otherwise decent Republicans” being made uncomfortable with putting their self-interest ahead of THE core tenet of America – democracy. As Steven has written, these people have to be convinced that there is a problem with minority rule, even as their interests are being nominally served, if we are ever going to even try to heal the country.

    I have zero faith that anyone of political importance will face any consequences for The Big Lie or January 6th. There really are two justice systems in the US and the powerful always seem to find themselves protected. But, airing our political dirty laundry in public could wise up some “otherwise decent” people to the threat our democracy faces in these times. That’s worth killing the filibuster over.

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  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: But the hope of elections is that the desire to win will force parties to do what’s best of the country even if for self-serving reasons.

    In case you haven’t noticed, Republicans do not share this sentiment in any way shape or form and are doing their damndest to insure that elections will have as little effect on their party as possible.

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  26. JohnMcC says:

    The two posts about the Commission and the filibuster sent me looking for polling results. Pretty surprised that polling is quite thin on the topic ‘do you favor a Commission to investigate the Insurrection?’

    But what there is seems to indicate that something like 1/2 to 1/3d of Republicans believe that the Democrats did it. Or Antifa. But certainly not Pres Trump.

    I suppose no one can convince the true believers that what happened is… well… what happened. But I’ve heard a defense of the 9/11 Commission along the lines of ‘there were LOTS of different stories about that day but now there’s just one.’ And anyone disputing the Warren Commission has to deal with an amazing depth of facts which we would not have in general circulation if it weren’t for that problematical report.

    Even if not universally accepted having a commission report just seems like a worthwhile project. Certainly miles better than the alternative of NOT having a report. Unless having confusion and false accusations actually works for you.

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  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: as self-interest is forcing otherwise decent Republicans to back the Big Lie

    OK, I see the problem you are having James and I may have the answer. Repeat after me:

    There are NO otherwise decent Republicans backing the Big Lie.
    There are NO otherwise decent Republicans backing the Big Lie.
    There are NO otherwise decent Republicans backing the Big Lie.
    There are NO otherwise decent Republicans backing the Big Lie.
    There are NO otherwise decent Republicans backing the Big Lie.
    There are NO otherwise decent Republicans backing the Big Lie.
    There are NO otherwise decent Republicans backing the Big Lie.
    There are NO otherwise decent Republicans backing the Big Lie.
    There are NO otherwise decent Republicans backing the Big Lie.
    There are NO otherwise decent Republicans backing the Big Lie.
    There are NO otherwise decent Republicans backing the Big Lie.
    There are NO otherwise decent Republicans backing the Big Lie.

    because backing the big lie means turning your back on your sworn oath of office.

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  28. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: @Steven L. Taylor: I agree that we have to come to grips with what happened on 6 January. Unfortunately, our political and information environments make that next to impossible. These blue ribbon commissions, while often a device for kicking the can down the road, can sometimes be helpful at reaching consensus. But the thing we’re seeking to get to the bottom of here is an inherently partisan issue and a bipartisan commission will therefore be seen as a tool of the Democratic Party.

    1
  29. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    But the thing we’re seeking to get to the bottom of here is an inherently partisan issue and a bipartisan commission will therefore be seen as a tool of the Democratic Party.

    It’s all about who you hope to convince. Whether there as a riot at the Capitol or something more benign isn’t open to debate. The events are on tape and people will go to jail for it. Perceptions of the event are being manufactured to be partisan – it isn’t inherent. That a bipartisan commission will be nevertheless be seen as a tool of the Democratic Party isn’t natural either – it’s political calculation.

    That’s kind of the point of the January 6th Commission. The Republicans want it both ways – they want their hardcore partisans to remain aggrieved and activated, while they want the casual Republican fan base to remain blissfully ignorant so they aren’t repulsed by the overtures to authoritarianism. The casual Republican fan base, plus persuadable independents, are the intended audience for a bipartisan commission. The country needs these folks to be shaken from their ignorance.

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  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: a bipartisan commission will therefore be seen as a tool of the Democratic Party.

    And a DOJ investigation won’t? What kind of investigation wouldn’t be? Oh yeah, an investigation by Republicans wouldn’t be seen as a tool of the Democratic Party.

    Really James, you seem to be arguing for nothing to be done because no matter what somebody will not accept the results.

    13
  31. Stormy Dragon says:

    I don’t think we should make monumental changes in public policy on a 50% plus 1 basis.

    What “monumental changes” do you think would be passed between now and the 2022 election without the filibuster?

    3
  32. gVOR08 says:

    Let’s say that in 2024, Biden (or Harris or whatever D) wins the popular vote handily and apparently the EC by 30, being put over the top by close wins in AZ and FL. But the GOP legislatures of AZ and FL, under powers they voted themselves, refuse to certify their elections. The Republican will win with a majority of the remaining 230 or so EC votes. The GOP majority of the Supremes will be OK with this. Doug has already expressed the opinion that the military will be OK with this because it’s legal. And James will be OK with it because democracy will have been overthrown in proper form.

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  33. Chip Daniels says:

    One of the unspoken corollaries to the aversion to “ramming” is that things which are “divisive” or “contentious” are to be avoided.
    As an example, Ford pardoned Nixon on the grounds that it would be “divisive”, and the frequent attacks on teaching the hard unpleasant history of racism use this same verbal cudgel.

    But this suggests that the citizens, to whom the Founders gave sovereign power, are somehow tender children incapable of confronting hard choices and accepting bitter defeats.

    Which is odd considering the Founders themselves were men who staged a bloody rebellion against the world’s greatest superpower, and two of them got into a deadly duel, and they felt bold enough to rip up the founding articles of the nation and draft a new constitution, then add ten amendments shortly thereafter.

    Tender these guys were not! They had no fear of “divisiveness” or “ramming” things through if they felt it was necessary.

    We should be the same.

    If the former President needs to be questioned, held in contempt or even jailed, let us be strong enough as citizens to do what is necessary.

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  34. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    little of this is unknown.

    Tell that to half the country.

    We need open hearings, as independent as possible to educate America. And if we can’t educate America we are fucked.

    Even a lot of people on the left are wildly wrong about the 1/6 insurrection, painting it as way more than it was.

    A BENGHAZI!!!! style grandstanding show would be useless, and the Republicans are trying to shove it down that path. And they will bring the theatrics.

    (I would like Congress critter’s microphones connected to electrodes, so they get shocked if they raise their voice too loud… is that legal or ethical?)

    2
  35. @James Joyner:

    But my point is that we’re much less of a true nation-state than those other countries. We have some major cleavages that have lately become extremely reinforcing, with the cross-cutting aspects much thinner and weaker than they were even 15-20 years ago.

    I honestly don’t think any of that matters as it pertains to whether a legislative body operates under majority or supermajority rules.

    Having changes that half the country objects to on the basis of Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote is not a recipe for healing. Alas, neither is a recalcitrant minority blocking not only the things Biden ran on to an 8-million-vote victory but even things that are broadly popular with Republican voters. Hell if I know the solution.

    I suppose the question is not, “what leads to healing?” but rather is “what is more fair and just? Majority rule for legislative activity or a minority veto on legislative activity?”

    And, beyond that, which will wound more? Majority rule or minority rule?

    4
  36. Mimai says:

    The OPs and comments have been interesting to read. I don’t know these issues as well as our hosts or many commenters, so I’ve been playing catch-up.

    As I’ve done this, I’ve tried to think of possible outcomes of a commission (since that’s the primary possibility under discussion) and the odds of said commission leading to these outcomes.

    I’m curious what others think. So I put together a quick list of possible outcomes below – I’ve zero confidence that this list contains the most relevant or all possible outcomes, so feel free to add obvious ones that I left out. Also I realize these are not mutually-exclusive.

    What is the likelihood that a commission would result in:
    -censure/expulsion (I realize these are not interchangeable) of sitting members
    -criminal/civil (see above) prosecution of sitting members
    -a significant (however you define it) change in party affiliation among voters
    -a significant change in short-term voting patterns among the public
    -a significant change in long-term voting patterns among the public
    -congress being more polarized
    -congress being less polarized
    -a healthier republic (hi Steven)
    -a less healthy republic

    Follow-up question: Would a change in the odds of any of these outcomes have you change your opinion on whether a commission should be held?

    1
  37. @James Joyner: I agree that it is impossible to put together a panel and process that both sides will see as valid.

    I just don’t think that that justifies the GOP filibuster. I think the filibuster is giving them a way to block something embarrassing and problematic for them.

    3
  38. @Mimai: FWIW, my post is not about the efficacy, or not, of a commission.

    1
  39. @Mimai: @Steven L. Taylor: To be clear, so that the point isn’t lost: my post is a critique of the notion that filibustering a 1/6 commission is a legitimate usage of the filibuster power. Moreover, I am trying to point out that filibustering a commission is a fantastic example of the minority using it veto to protect its own interests (in this case, electoral and political interests, not even policy interests as linked to a bill).

    3
  40. Mimai says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Now it’s my turn to be clear… I realize your post was not about efficacy. But it seems to me (and I could be wrong) that many of the expressed opinions on said commission (here and on the other thread) do have an implicit assumption re efficacy to them. So I was hoping to bring this out.

  41. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mimai: To clarify, my point is not that one method is superior to all others (I’m sure there is one, and I have a favorite but may be wrong), just that doing nothing is unacceptable. No fear tho, something will be done it’s just a matter of what.

  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Only if you count nothing as something, which, in this case, is reasonable.

    1
  43. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “But the thing we’re seeking to get to the bottom of here is an inherently partisan issue and a bipartisan commission will therefore be seen as a tool of the Democratic Party.”

    This makes no sense whatsoever. A bipartisan commission is by its nature not a tool of one party. That’s sort of the point of it being bipartisan.

    2
  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mimai:
    What I care about is learning the truth. Anticipating an outcome is intellectually corrupting. It feels to me like pulling for a particular jury verdict. I’d rather see the data, and then wargame real world results, in that order.

    1
  45. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Your core point is irrefutable. Obviously this is a partisan abuse of the filibuster. This goes on the poster for canceling of the filibuster.

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  46. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Thanks for engaging. In hindsight, methinks my original comment was too much. But your response can help me focus it to one of the things I’ve been noodling.

    If a commission was 100% certain to cause more harm than good (for simplicity, let’s say to the socio-political health of the country), would you still be in favor of it? I suspect that you will say “yes” but others may not.

    And if the answer is no, “I” would not be in favor of it, then what about if it was 95% certain? Or 90% certain? Or 75% certain, etc? Where is the inflection point on % certainty of harm that would change one’s favor?

    Alternatively, invert the parameters…. that is, fix the certainty of harm to 100% and instead adjust the severity of the harm from 10 (mild short-term harm) to 100 (maximal long-term harm).

    Ps, If my suspicion is correct and you, Michael, would say that the commission must proceed regardless of the harm (Truth is the only important thing), then I do have a follow-up question. Is there any room for useful fictions in your worldview?

  47. Ken_L says:

    Coming from a parliamentary democracy where “crossing the floor” to vote with the other party on an important issue is often enough to get you expelled from your own, I find all this bloviation about bipartisanship deeply incomprehensible. Democracies have elections, a government is formed, it gets to deliver as much of the platform it campaigned on as it can manage before the next election. Not put the election result to one side and sit down to negotiate a compromise or two with the opposition, pleasing neither side’s supporters. Frankly I’m amazed voter turnout in America is as high as it is – endless elections to decide who sits in a legislative body that struggles to do any of the things its members promised in their campaigns.

    Paradoxically, however, on this occasion I suspect the Democrats have got exactly what they wanted and expected. Trump Republicans have demonstrated Trump still runs the party, they rejected good faith proposals even though Democrats bent over backwards to meet their concerns, and the House can now go ahead with a select committee that will hold public hearings all through 2022. Any objections from Republicans will be met with a horse laugh and a reminder that McConnell himself held Congressional committees to be the correct forums to conduct the investigations.

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  48. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mimai:
    I am happy to shade the truth in interpersonal matters, you know, the old, ‘does this make me look fat?’ kind of thing.

    But beyond that I will never support placing limits on the truth. A society that has to rely on dishonesty isn’t worth saving, and in the long run cannot be saved by avoiding reality.

    Let’s flip the partisan angle. Say there was a commission certain to prove that Barack Obama really was born in Kenya and a secret Muslim. Would I still want the facts to come out? Yes.

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  49. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mimai:

    Is there any room for useful fictions in your worldview?

    Again, at the interpersonal level? Sure, but only because dishonesty as politesse is so ingrained, and the damage done by saying, ‘you look great!’ is so minimal.

    But do I subscribe to the famous line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance? When the legend becomes fact, print the legend? No, I don’t. First of all, it’s a non-sequitur, but taking from it the meaning the original writer intended? No.

    Fiction should never trump reality. Fiction is not built as well, fiction is a product of imagination, and the purpose of imagination is not to ignore reality but to understand it better.

  50. @Ken_L: Exactly.

  51. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Good stuff. You make the distinction between “the interpersonal level” and “beyond that” (which I take to mean, “the societal level”…. correct me if I misunderstand). It also seems that by interpersonal, you mean dyadic (again, correct me if not). But, and assuming I read you correctly, there is not a clear dividing line between the two. It’s a gradient, no?

    Useful fictions are allowable with n=2. What about n=3? n=4? If “society” is at least partially defined as n>2, then at what amount of n does Truth become sacrosanct? (of course, these are rhetorical questions intended to clarify the discussion – with you and myself)

    Also, you mention that societies that rely on “dishonesty” are not worth saving. (note, I don’t think dishonesty is the right word here… fiction != dishonesty… so I will stick with fiction) But isn’t shared fiction inherent to society?

    ps, This discussion has shifted from being focused on the commission (likelihood, outcomes) to how we conceptualize a good and functioning society. That is all well and good… I just wanted to note that and also note that this is on me, as I was the one who asked you about useful fictions.

  52. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mimai:
    Indeed, a sliding scale, (like most things) and not just dependent on n=2, but also dependent on factors like age, for example. When I talk to an auditoreum full of kids I don’t necessarily spew my dislike of school. I have no objection to the usual social lubrication on the interpersonal level, although in a perfect world I’d dispense with that as well.

    But, would I stand in front of an auditoreum full of kids and tell them black is white? No. Even in those situations I push to be as honest as circumstances will allow. For example, I tell them I was a high school drop-out and I even show my mug shot. I don’t want to be taken for someone I’m not. Temptations are strewn in my path, I have two pretty large fandoms around two book series, and I always reject the proffered throne of authority, as well as credit for anything I did not intend. An example would be that I get a lot of credit from trans kids for things they discovered in what I wrote, and I always reject it, pointing out that while I’m very pleased they found some support, I didn’t put it there and deserve no credit.

    Ever since I became legal (almost 20 years, now) any dishonesty really grates. Dishonesty is weakness. There’s power in the truth.

  53. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    These discussions rarely have a clear conclusion to them. And we have certainly not reached one here. To be continued I’m sure.

    So allow me to use your anecdote about trans kids feeling heard and empowered to bring this to a close. Feels good to end on such a positive note.