Archive - Feb 2016

February 17th

The Impending Shitshow

« February 2016 »


So, yeah, Antonin Scalia died. And amidst all the talk of his brilliant jurisprudence and his friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsberg, one fun fact that all the sentences that start with "whether you agreed with him or not" tend to leave out is the fairly substantial pile of evidence that Antonin Scalia thought black people were inferior to white people. Which is an awful thing for anyone to believe, and a worse thing for a Supreme Court justice to believe.

So yeah, for those of us who care more about bigotry than we do about genial co-worker relations and fun opera buddies, Scalia's death on Saturday made the world a better place. Not because an old racist died, but because that old racist dying was the only way to get that old racist out of his position of great power and influence. So don't blame me for celebrating Scalia's death, blame the Constitution.

And speaking of the Constitution, it's a goddamned shame that the Founding Fathers didn't exist as the same time as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Because if they'd had more experience with petty, whining little rules-lawyers, they'd probably have added a few pages of footnotes. Instead, we have to deal with the United States Senate.

The Constitution says the Senate gets to "advise and consent" on court nominees. This phrase is so incredibly open to interpretation that even simpletons can manage it, hence the current reaction to Obama's ability to nominate Scalia's successor.

Within hours of Scalia's death, Republicans were vowing to not even consider any Obama nominee, claiming it was bad form for Obama to nominate someone when, in nine months, voters will pick a new president who'll take office two months later. They've made up some very weak bullshit to justify their brazenly political position, and said Obama shouldn't even bother going through the motions of nominating someone since it's going to go nowhere cough cough repealing Obamacare cough cough.

The question isn't whether or not the Senate should block Obama's nominee. Obviously, they shouldn't, assuming Obama nominates the kind of unthreatening moderate he clearly will. I mean, if he'd somehow found a liberal equivalent to Scalia, assuming such a thing even existed, that'd be one thing. Hell, if Republicans didn't immediately telegraph that who the nominee was wouldn't play a part in the decision, that'd be another thing.

The question also isn't whether or not the Senate can and will block the nomination. They will. The question is, will they get away with it? And that's the kind of question that keeps me up at night. Or would, if I didn't sleep the sleep of the deeply, deeply cynical.

Basic behavioral science teaches us that people will do whatever they can to benefit themselves unless they face some form of consequences that deter them. Recent history has taught us that the idea of "political consequences" is rapidly becoming obsolete. Donald Trump can say "He's a pussy" on a live microphone and not face political consequences. The Senate can blanket-block hundreds of Obama judicial nominees for years and not face political consequences. See also Vitter and diaper sex.

And in the absence of consequences, self-serving behavior at the expense of actually running the goddamned country will continue to run rampant. The way this is supposed to work is that Republicans overreach in their obstructionism, voters get appalled, they vote the Republicans out in November, they realize their mistake, and behave more congenially in the future.

For that to happen this year, their overreach will need to be portrayed by the media as overreach, the electorate would have to be retrained to think about government instead of politics so they could be appalled, gerrymandering and tribalism would have to be undone to the point where it was possible to vote people out of office for poor behavior, and people would have to be smart enough to learn from their mistakes and adjust accordingly.

And I think we all know the likelihood of all THOSE things lining up. So all we can do is what we usually do. Sit back, watch the shitshow, and try not to get splattered. USA! USA! USA!