Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The voting rights bill is dead, but the filibuster lives

 They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. If that’s true then Joe Biden and the progressive wing of the Democrats have a definite psychiatric problem. The Democrats once again pinned their hopes for a grand liberal piece of legislation on nuking the filibuster and having Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema put them over the top.

And once again, like Lucy jerking the football away from Charlie Brown, the pair of maverick Democrats destroyed the hopes of the leftists even as Republicans painted them as a threat to democracy for talking about ending the filibuster. Ironically, many Republican critics of the plan had themselves advocated the destruction of the filibuster back in 2017 when Donald Trump was president and the GOP controlled both houses of Congress.

Photo by Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash

Here is what the Biden Administration should learn from the experience: In today’s political climate, it is almost impossible to push through a partisan bill with 51 Senate votes because you lose the moderates as the draft bill veers to the extreme. What is possible is to cobble together a moderate bill that has bipartisan support and get it passed even above howls of anger and outrage from Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, and everyone to the right of Susan Collins and Mitt Romney.

Before Republicans gloat too much, they still haven’t learned the same lesson either. I’m sure they’ll demonstrate that fact as soon as they have control of the White House and Congress again.

The bottom line here is that both parties are controlled by their radical fringes and when the party gains a majority, these party bases insist that they were given carte blanche to enact the most partisan items on their wish lists. Federalizing elections and handing out cash to liberal causes in the name of infrastructure? Check. Building a border wall, repealing Obamacare, and enacting corporate tax cuts? Sure!

You might think that the second list was popular, but that would reflect being in a Republican bubble. Obamacare was historically unpopular until Republicans started talking seriously about repealing it in 2017, at which point it became popular. The border wall was never popular outside the GOP and perhaps surprisingly, the one item on this list that became law, the 2017 tax reform, was unpopular before its passage and remained unpopular even after Americans had a chance to see their smaller tax bills a year later.

[As an aside, I supported the 2017 tax reform at the time, but in retrospect, it seems like a bad idea. The cuts did juice the economy for a time, but there turned out to be at least two problems with the plan. First, budget data shows that the reform bill slowed the growth of tax revenues and caused the deficit to spike. Second, the stimulative effect of the tax reform was severely dampened when Trump launched his trade wars just a few months later. Effectively, the Trump Administration handed Americans money with one hand with tax cuts and then took it back with the other in the form of tariffs and higher costs.]

The point here is that ideas that seem very popular to the party faithful aren’t nearly as popular to the hordes of moderate voters who don’t like either party. The moderates are not swayed by arguments on social media and mostly just want to be left alone. They veer from one party to the other based largely on who seems scariest at the time.

That goes a long way toward explaining why Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden in the same election in which Republicans picked up 14 congressional seats. Trump was scarier than Biden, but congressional Democrats were scarier than their Republican counterparts.

Of course, as I’ve mentioned before, the Democrats focused entirely on the presidential election results along with the Georgia Senate runoff. The fact that they nearly lost control of the House went completely over their heads and they engaged in a headlong rush to push through the progressive base’s priorities rather than those of the average American.

If Democrats really wanted to make their party more popular, they’d be placing Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in positions of leadership. Instead, they are pariahs and quite a few progressives would be happy to kick them out of the party entirely.

Again, Republicans shouldn’t gloat because the GOP does the same thing to its moderates. I watched Republicans demonize moderates as “RINOs” for the better part of two decades. The most reviled members of the Republican Party are its moderates, like Romney and Collins, and not its radicals like Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Paul Gosar.

The Biden Administration has had several successes. Early on, it passed the COVID relief bill and it also scored a victory with a historic infrastructure bill. These bills were both passed with Republican support that broke filibuster attempts.

So, why is it that the Democrats keep returning to the flawed strategy of writing an extremely partisan bill and threatening to nuke the filibuster? They obviously know what works. It’s a simple matter of math. It’s not hard.

The problem is that the progressive radicals wag the dog. The AOC and Bernie Sanders wing of the party has an outsize influence, especially when its voice is amplified by sympathizers in the media. They aren’t a majority, but they are loud, especially if you’re in a bubble with them.

So, the Biden Administration is headed for another embarrassing rout because it is listening to a vocal Twitter minority rather than paying attention to the middle-of-the-road voters that sent it to Washington in the first place. That is one of the things making Democrats seem scary to those same voters just 10 months ahead of the midterm elections.


Over the weekend, a gunman held hostages at a synagogue in the Fort Worth suburb of Colleyville, Texas. Three people were held hostage for eleven hours in an attack that began while the service was being live-streamed over the internet (an additional hostage was released earlier in the day). Per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the crisis ended when an FBI hostage rescue team stormed the building, freeing the hostages. The kidnapper was killed in the process but no hostages were harmed.

The FBI identified the terrorist as Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen who recently came to the US. USA Today reported that Akram had demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who is serving an 86-year sentence in a federal prison in Texas for attempting to kill Americans in Afghanistan. Siddiqui was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008, reports NBC News. At the time, she was carrying notes detailing plans for a “mass casualty attack” on sites in New York.

For the past several years, we have seen Islamic terror attacks decline as domestic political extremists committed more terrorist attacks in the US. The hostage-taking in Texas shows that even as we increasingly fight amongst ourselves, external threats have not gone away.

Today is Martin Luther King Day. King was assassinated in 1968 (speaking of domestic terrorism) and the world has changed a lot in the years since. I wrote about the changes in race relations during my five decades in an article during Thanksgiving. I’m going to share it again in memory of Dr. King.

The Racket News
Thankful for racial progress
The day before Thanksgiving, America got something to be thankful for with the jury verdict in the Ahmaud Arbery case. Arbery, of course, was the black jogger who was shot and killed by three white men in coastal Georgia back in February 2020. To put that in perspective, Arbery died before COVID-19 became pandemic in the United States. It seems like ano…
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I’ve grown in my view of race relations over the years. Part of that has been a result of my travels around the country. Two of the most memorable spots that I can recall with respect to the Civil Rights Era are in Wichita, Kansas and Birmingham, Alabama.

While geocaching one day in Wichita, I discovered a small park with a large bronze statue memorializing the sit-in protests at the all-white lunch counter in Woolworth’s department store. The life-size statue replicates the lunch counter and several patrons. If you ever happen to be in Wichita, it’s a neat spot to visit.

The second is the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. In 1963, a bomb placed in the church by the KKK killed four young black girls who were in Sunday School (back to domestic terror). Visiting the church and seeing the statues of the four dead children is very moving.

In one of history’s strange little coincidences, there was another little girl at Sunday School on the day of the bombing. That little girl ended up becoming the first black female Secretary of State in American history. Her name was Condoleeza Rice.

And now you know the rest of the story. (With apologies to Paul Harvey.)

And finally, back at Thanksgiving, Steve Berman published his family recipe for butternut squash bisque. We didn’t make it at the time, but yesterday my wife took advantage of the combination winter storm and last days of quarantine to try the recipe. It’s quite good. Here’s the recipe again in case you missed it.

The Racket News
Butternut Squash Bisque
There’s nothing more Thanksgiving-y than pumpkin pie. But my butternut squash bisque is really close, and you don’t have to wait for dessert to eat it. I don’t remember how this recipe came to me. I love to cook and bounce around the kitchen trying different things. I was making some kind of butternut squash…
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From the Racket

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