Liberals Unbound

A WSJ editorial makes the most compelling case for electing John McCain, one that the campaign has barely touched upon: the need to check unalloyed liberalism.

If the current polls hold, Barack Obama will win the White House on November 4 and Democrats will consolidate their Congressional majorities, probably with a filibuster-proof Senate or very close to it. Without the ability to filibuster, the Senate would become like the House, able to pass whatever the majority wants.

Saved by the Filibuster

Saved by the Filibuster

Though we doubt most Americans realize it, this would be one of the most profound political and ideological shifts in U.S. history. Liberals would dominate the entire government in a way they haven’t since 1965, or 1933. In other words, the election would mark the restoration of the activist government that fell out of public favor in the 1970s. If the U.S. really is entering a period of unchecked left-wing ascendancy, Americans at least ought to understand what they will be getting, especially with the media cheering it all on.The nearby table shows the major bills that passed the House this year or last before being stopped by the Senate minority. Keep in mind that the most important power of the filibuster is to shape legislation, not merely to block it. The threat of 41 committed Senators can cause the House to modify its desires even before legislation comes to a vote. Without that restraining power, all of the following have very good chances of becoming law in 2009 or 2010.

The editorial lists various things that are likely to pass in a national government dominated by Democrats. Some of them, like restoring the right to vote for felons who have served their time, are arguably good policies. Others, like rules changes that “could cement Democratic rule for years to come,” are more scary.

Interestingly, the editorial doesn’t mention McCain at all. Given that Senate races are statewide and individual, though, it’s hard to see how people will have much impact on stopping this trend.  After all, I can vote for Jim Gilmore over Mark Warner (almost certainly to no avail) but have no ability to influence the other 32 Senate races.

Unless enough Republican Senate contenders win their individual races, then, the veto, not the filibuster is the check on this eventuality.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Congress, Government, Politics 101, US Politics, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    The WSJ Editorial Board wasn’t a wee bit concerned with Neocons Unbound during the 2004 election. I’m crying crocodile tears at this sad state of affairs of the impending liberal tyranny.

  2. Dantheman says:

    Funny how Republican filibusters of Democratic programs are necessary checks on one-party rule, and Democratic filibusters of Republican programs and judicial appointments (circa 2005) were pure obstructionism. What’s the old line about paybacks…

  3. Mike P says:

    Yeah, this is a bit rich from the guys who cheered on Bush, the war and virtually everything else we’ve experienced the last 8 years. It’s just another version of “well we know we totally f#$ked the country and destroyed our own brand, but hey…those other guys are much worse than we are!”

  4. Ben says:

    This would be a really good, even persuasive argument, if McCain hadn’t chose Palin to be his running mate.

    It’s really difficult to play the fear card with the possibility of a President Palin in the mix.

  5. Ben says:

    Are you actually voting for Gilmore, or was that strictly an example? Not that it’s any of my business, of course.

  6. DC Loser says:

    Following up Ben’s question, is it your contention that Gilmore will be a better senator than Mark Warner? If you compared their respective performances as governors, I should think Warner beat Gilmore by a mile.

  7. Ben says:

    btw, I think this particularly hurts McCain. I really, really like the idea (given the available options) of a McCain presidency with a Democratic congress, a notion I don’t think I would be entertaining much were it Giuliani or Huckabee, although possibly with Romney. But again, Palin ruins it for me.

    According to a recent BloggingHeads, Palin pushed Dan Drezner to Obama as well, not that he was the biggest McCain guy to begin with.

    I think they’re really going to regret picking her.

  8. James Joyner says:

    Following up Ben’s question, is it your contention that Gilmore will be a better senator than Mark Warner? If you compared their respective performances as governors, I should think Warner beat Gilmore by a mile.

    For the most part, Senators vote their state’s interests. Their most crucial vote where they’re likely to vote differently based on party is on Day One: for the leadership. I’d rather have a vote for Mitch McConnell than a vote for Harry Reid.

    Otherwise, yes, I think Gilmore’s more likely to vote for policies I prefer than Warner. A moderate conservative Republican is much more likely to do that than a moderate Democrat.

  9. Bithead says:

    The WSJ Editorial Board wasn’t a wee bit concerned with Neocons Unbound during the 2004 election

    Perhaps that’s because given the narrow margins of majority following 2004, they weren’t ‘unbound’.

  10. DMan says:

    One could argue that Democrats are likely to gain even more seats going forward if McCain somehow wins, considering the poor economy the next president will have to deal with. Also, I don’t doubt that some of those seats would lean further left of center than conservatives and moderates would be comfortable with.

  11. DMan says:

    Another note…

    Saved by the Filibuster: Representation for DC

    Thank God!

  12. Michael says:

    Perhaps that’s because given the narrow margins of majority following 2004, they weren’t ‘unbound’.

    Because the Democratic minority was sooo effective. Hell, they can’t even put up much of an opposition as the majority party.

  13. Steve Plunk says:

    Dantheman,

    There is a strong case there are major differences between legislative filibusters and filibusters meant to block judicial nominations. I would think so and the WSJ thinks so as well.

    I don’t get why the WSJ hasn’t brought this up earlier. Almost all my votes are intended to stop liberalism more than advance conservatism.

  14. Bithead says:

    Far more effective as a minority than as a majority, Michael. It’s far easier to stop something happening, than it is to make it happen, after all.

    You weren’t here back then, but that was my complaint…. that the Republicans didn’t ahve enough of a majority to keep the Democrats out of it. think, now; we’ve done every other possible combo over since the Civil war. The one thing we’ve never tried is a veto-proof Republican majority.

  15. Billy says:

    I don’t get why the WSJ hasn’t brought this up earlier. Almost all my votes are intended to stop liberalism more than advance conservatism.

    Mine too Steve – just a different flavor of liberalism than you. Which is why I’ll be voting straight democrat this election.

    We haven’t had a truly conservative party for whom to vote in decades. I wish that republicans would admit this.

  16. Michael says:

    Far more effective as a minority than as a majority, Michael. It’s far easier to stop something happening, than it is to make it happen, after all.

    Yes, but they don’t seem able to stop anything as a majority party either.

  17. DC Loser says:

    It will be interesting to watch the dynamics between an Obama administration and the Congressional leadership under Pelosi and Reid. Will Obama ask for a line item veto? Obama knows he has go govern from the center like Clinton did after 94. There will be tensions between the three, so it’ll be interesting to see how they react to each other.

  18. Mithras says:

    A WSJ editorial makes the most compelling case for electing John McCain, one that the campaign has barely touched upon: the need to check unalloyed liberalism.

    It’s only compelling to the right-wing base. McCain would have had a hard time simultaneously arguing independent voters should support him because he’d get things done by reaching across the aisle and because he’d create legislative gridlock. In a year that “change” is the theme, when people feel the country is in a mess that requires action, inaction is a losing platform.

  19. Bithead says:

    Yes, but they don’t seem able to stop anything as a majority party either.

    Well, there again, it comes down to the narrow margins, in combination with the blue dogs among the Democrats, or the liberal republicans from the opposite end of the scale.

    That’s what’s been annoying me so greatly when this subject comes up; basing a party’s effectivness based on a small majority of votes of one party or the other, seems to me to inore that neither party is stacked with ideological purists. If it were the smallest of majorities would suffice to enact a good deal of a party’s agenda, whatever that might be. Clearly, that’s not the case, particularly among Republicans who seemingly have a wider ideological spread than do Democrats.

    So, we come back to it; We keep hearing from Obama that trying the same set of conditions over again will produce the same results. Know what? He’s right, that far at least. We’ve tried a Demcrat supermajority and got the the spread between The ‘great society’ and Jimmy Carter, with the centerist Nixon tossed in for good measure. The one combination in the last century and a half that’s been left untred is a Republican super-majority.

    And Billy, this is for you, too. Wanna know why Republicans havebeen tilting left? It’s beacsue they’ve never goteen a clear mandate. A small majority doesn’t constitute a mandate for major change, sorry.

  20. Billy says:

    Bithead, I have to give you credit for a coherent post.

    Wanna know why Republicans havebeen tilting left? It’s beacsue they’ve never goteen a clear mandate. A small majority doesn’t constitute a mandate for major change, sorry.

    I think you’re correct, to a point, but that didn’t stop the small majority of republicans in power from crowing about the clear mandate the American people gave them in subsequent elections, from claiming the opposition was obstructionist when it suited their needs, and from pursuing “conservative” policies which were designed to entrench power in their own hands, to reward their cronies, and to punish their vanquished “foes.” On that score, paybacks are a bitch.

    But more importantly, all those “conservative” policies came at the cost of radically expanded government powers, a huge deficit, and increased (yes, increased) spending. The point is, that it wasn’t the lack of a mandate that led republicans to trend toward using government for their own gain – it was power itself. True conservatives would have reduced the ability of elected officials to seek self-aggrandizement and enrichment at the expense of the taxpayer; in contrast, the modern republican party has consistently demonstrated its willingness to screw the American public in order to line its own pockets.

  21. Bithead says:

    But more importantly, all those “conservative” policies came at the cost of radically expanded government powers, a huge deficit, and increased (yes, increased) spending. The point is, that it wasn’t the lack of a mandate that led republicans to trend toward using government for their own gain – it was power itself.

    Well, not initially, no. Initially, it came from ‘compromise’. The kind of compromises needed to get ANYTHING done. Reagan, as good as he was, could only get half of what we really needed through. Example;

    On the goal of lowering he deficit, Reagan lowered marginal tax rates. This spuured economic groth, as he predicted, and also caused the pie itself to grwo, providing increased tax revenue even at the lower rate. Had the Democrats followed through on their part of the deal… IE Cutting spending,as they promised they would, our deficit would have disappeared before the end of Reagans second term. Of course, they went in the other direction, spending $1.65 for every dollow of increased federal reevnue.

    Compromise.
    With whom?
    The hard left.

    See, Americans have gotten used to leftists for so long they’re unwilling to make such a dramatic change to true conservatives… The Republicans know such people would never get elected in the climate that’s developed. So the Republicans do all that they can do, which is to offer, at best centrists.

    As such, I don’t accept your read.

  22. Billy says:

    You buy into the fallacy that the republicans were ever truly interested in cutting spending. They are certainly interested in cutting programs, but only those that do not inure to their benefit politically. No question the dems have no interest in cutting those entitlement programs which benefit their historic constituencies, but at least they have tried to pay for it, yes, with tax increases (mostly on the wealthy).

    Contrast this with, for example, defense spending and Iraq. We had six years of de facto republican majorities (Jeffords notwithstanding), and the republicans didn’t even try to pay for missile defense, let alone speding on the “war on terror.” We can fairly debate the wisdom of all government spending, but both parties are equally guilty of having pet projects; both cost enormous amounts of money which require enormous amounts of revenue. The difference between the parties’ approaches lie who benefits and who pays for it.

    The beneficiaries are obvious, as stated above. The problem is that the republicans clearly have no intention of paying for anything, and are bankrupting the country in the process. This is as “liberal” as fiscal policy can get, and I for one would gladly pay a few more taxes today for a job tomorrow.

  23. MNotaro says:

    For most republicans, McCain is the lesser of two evils. Most republican friends I have just don’t want to vote for Obama and see his illuminati politicians in DC. We aren’t voting for McCain. We are voting against Obama.

  24. Barry says:

    Posted by Steve Plunk:

    “Dantheman,

    There is a strong case there are major differences between legislative filibusters and filibusters meant to block judicial nominations. I would think so and the WSJ thinks so as well.”

    Yes, there is a case, I don’t know how strong it is: federal judges serve for life, and therefore fillibusters are more justified than for laws.

    Of course, that probably wasn’t what either you or the WSJ meant, was it?

    And where was the WSJ when Hatch was exercising his ‘pocket fillibuster’ against (IRRC) ~60 of Clinton’s judicial nominees?

  25. Bithead says:

    You buy into the fallacy that the republicans were ever truly interested in cutting spending

    Well, again, that kinda depends on which ones you were talking about. Even there, the problem with cutting any spending amounts to the third rail. and how to pay for all the socialism AND the military, only the latter of which is constitutionally manddated?

  26. Billy says:

    and how to pay for all the socialism AND the military, only the latter of which is constitutionally manddated?

    It’s a fair question, although the constitutional mandate is a red herring. I think the American people will make a statement about which priorities to pursue here in a couple weeks – we’ll see what happens after that…