Saturday, December 22, 2007

Harry! (Dos)

Earlier today, I posted about the Trouble With Harry (who is awaiting his hanging for Lack of Leadership) and I suggested the problem is as much Institutional as it is the general wussiness of Our Dems' Majority Leader.

The Rs are running roughshod over the Dems in Congress, particularly in the Senate, where the Democratic Majority is more illusory than real. Not only is Holy Joe a reliable Republican shill for just about anything the White House wants, there are 20-25 other Democratic Senators the White House can rely on in a pinch.

But even if that weren't the case, the White House through the Rs could -- and we don't doubt would -- control what gets passed and what doesn't, regardless. As of a few days ago, the White House (in the Person of Bush, but Cheney is probably behind the diktats) had threatened 53 vetoes if Congress did not send the bills the White House wants. It takes 67 votes in the Senate, 290 in the House to override a veto. Built in to the Constitution.

No presidency has ever been as adamant about having things its way or no way, and few Congresses controlled by the opposite party have been so hapless in the face of such executive intransigence.

Yet this situation is a built in consequence of the institutional parameters set by the Constitution and the hoary traditions of the elected bodies through which, in theory, the Constitution is implemented.

KagroX over at dKos has posted on this issue, as has Digby at her Other Place, and I'm sure we're going to see more discussion of the institutional failure in Harry's Hamstrung Senate and Nancy's Floundering House.

Much of what has gone wrong, or not gone at all, since the Dems took over the Congress has to do with the way the Founders set things up, not realizing, perhaps, that a political party would arise that would use the institutional impediments built in to the Constitution to... destroy it, and with it, the Nation.

That's not to give either Harry or Nancy much slack, tho. Neither of them are adept at using the Bully Pulpit to advocate Righteous Progressive Positions, but then, neither of them has a unified caucus who will stand with them if they were to try. The fractiousness and outright traitor-like ways of Democratic Electeds is one of the most consistent of their behaviors, and it would lead to routine R "victories" if nothing else did.

But the Institution of Congress vis-à-vis the White House allows just what's happening to happen, and can ensure there will be no change for generations. Even with a Dem majority, and potentially even with a Dem in the White House (cf: Clinton, Bill, who had a fractious Dem congress, couldn't get Universal Health Coverage to happen, among other things.)

But is it a feature or a bug?

Remains to be seen. Meanwhile, it's time for a scene from El Amor Brujo. See what folks working from the same page can accomplish.

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