One of the things that troubles me about Harry Reid’s “nuclear option” is that it strongly appears to be a prelude for even further weakening of the minority. President Obama’s statement of support for the move certainly supports that impression. But even if the push to diminish the minority’s influence ends with the destruction of “advice and consent” on nominees, it’s still very significant.
Filibustering nominations is one of those ideas that had some power even back when it was largely hypothetical. (Never forget, it was Harry Reid and his crew who actually started doing it, and how.) The idea was to have nominees who weren’t so obviously unacceptable that the minority would unite to block them. But now any crazy character can get pushed into a seat on a straight party-line vote. A great deal of Big Government’s immense power has been sheltered in election-proof bureaucracies, making these appointments one of the few, albeit indirect, ways the electorate still gets to influence the apparatus of government.
Combined with Obama’s endless railing against the “obstructionist” minority, we’re heading towards the Left’s vision of an elected dictatorship, in which electoral victory conveys absolute power, unrestrained by anything from minority dissent to Constitutional limits. The idea is that we all get to have a big political discussion during the election… and then the losers shut their pie holes and fall into lockstep behind the winners. Anything else is “gridlock.” Dissent is dirt that clogs the high-performance engine of Big Government.
Also, you can tell from all this whining about Republicans that the Left thinks there’s only one election that really matters, the presidential race. We get one chance every four years to band into political collectives and attempt to influence the course of the nation, through the election of one person. The President is the only elected official we all get to vote for, after all. What could be more “democratic” than giving him near-total power, and expecting all other elected representatives to help him enact his agenda, which is the distilled Will of the People?
Of course, they’re likely to change their tune when it’s a Republican in the White House, because those presidents are never avatars of the General Will. No, they’re always narrowly elected by deeply divided electorates, arriving in the White House devoid of any mandate save one: the urgent need to seek out bipartisan compromise with Democrats. The Republicans could win the White House plus 99 seats in the Senate in 2016, and the media would immediately declare the absolute top priority of the new Administration was getting together with the one remaining Democrat, finding out what he wants, and meeting him at least halfway.
Under no circumstances should any American buy into the notion that Barack Obama, or any of his successors, is an elected dictator whose power is limited only by the need to secure the blessings of the people by winning an election. “Democracy” is not at all a sufficient limit on power all by itself. Among other things, Obama – like every other re-elected President – need never face the voters again. And the threat of beating up his Party to punish him for abusing his power does not measure up to the rewards from such abuse. Anyone whose agenda requires a Washington that barrels forward without the complications of effective minority dissent needs to get a new agenda, because the American Republic was never intended to work that way.