Ending the Filibuster

Well, I thought it was big news, anyway. The filibuster isn’t completely gone yet, but Reid and the Senate Democrats certainly got its coats and gloves on. Once they shove it out the door, there will be no easy way for the minority party in the Senate to put a chokehold on the President’s agenda – for good or ill.

It takes a fifty-one votes to pass most legislation and nominations. But it takes sixty votes to end debate on those things. This means some Senators have to vote to end debate knowing they will lose the actual vote. This used to happen quite a bit, with enough Senators of both parties willing to cut deals just to move things along, but those Senators – from both parties – have been gradually voted out of office and replaced by people with more hard-line attitudes. So the Senate has been paralyzed by rules intended for a more collegial institution, not one marked by pitched partisanship.

Some people have interpreted this as our elected officials being more dedicated to their party than doing their goddamn job, but it seems to me like Senators are doing a better job than ever before: we used to complain about political wheeling and dealing interfering with “representing the people,” so we’ve voted the wheelers-and-dealers out, and partisans in.

What rushing the filibuster to the door does is make it easier for the majority party to stay true to their principals while getting the legislature’s work done. This is great if you happen to be the majority party and it really sucks if you’re in the minority. But this is how we, as voters, have asked our representatives to behave by becoming so intensely ideological ourselves.

See also:

  • Everything you need to know about Thursday’s filibuster change, Wonkblog
  • Three charts explain why Democrats went nuclear on the filibuster, Mother Jones
  • Average ideology of the House and Senate, Brookings Institution

Long-term Unemployment

Annie Lowery of the New York Times describes what long-term unemployment looks like for Jennifer Barrington-Ward, who has a college degree and thirty years of continuous work experience.

After she lost her job, Ms. Barrington-Ward lived off her 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. Two years ago, she had to give up the house she shared with friends outside Boston. She cannot get Medicaid because she does not have a fixed address. She has no car to get around. She does freelance “intuitive” readings, similar to psychic readings, and web production work. A jobless friend committed suicide.

Barrington-Ward is homeless despite deep cuts in economic assistance, which are supposed to be so painful for poor people the experience kicks them in the ass and gives them the motivation they need to become rich. And yet, long-term unemployment has risen 213 percent – which does not count those people who have been moved onto shadow welfare programs.

Perhaps there’s not as much to the indolence theory of poverty as we’ve been led to believe.

Thudfactor’s 2013 Virginia Gubernatorial Voter’s Guide

We have three candidates for Governor of Virginia this year, and pressure is on by a vocal minority to vote for libertarian Robert Sarvis to send a message, improve the diversity of opinions, or disrupt the two-party system. Voting for Sarvis is unlikely to achieve any of those ends, so I think that’s a poor reason to vote for him. You should only vote for Sarvis (or any other candidate) because his and his party’s platform most closely matches your values.

Of course, with only three choices — or six, or twenty — finding a close match is unusual. So how can you vote your concience? We have to think in broad strokes. So, broadly speaking:

If you are socially and economically moderate to liberal, vote for Democratic Candidate Terry McAuliffe and the Democratic ticket.

Although McAuliffe’s opposition has tried to paint him as an extreme liberal, most Democrats remember him as part of the pro-business, centrist “New Democrat” group. You can read his position on issues here. He is the closest thing in this race to a status quo candidate, although I think under his administration we would see core government services refunded, a liberalization of the state’s marriage laws, and possibly a slight liberalization of the state’s drug laws.

McAuliffe is a pragmatic choice for liberals in the state, as his election will, at the very least, stymie Rebublican and Tea-Party attempts to roll back reproductive rights in the state and reshape electoral processes to the Republican’s benefit.

If you are socially conservative and anti-tax, vote for Republican Ken Cuccinelli and the Republican ticket.

Ken Cuccinelli is the sitting attorney general. You can read his position on the issues here. Cuccinelli is in the radically smaller government camp, but his tenure as Attorney General has been defined by his attempts to get the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling on anti-sodomy laws, resistance to Obamacare, his anti-choice stance, and is on recent record saying laws banning sex outside of marriage should be enforced more often and that birth control should be more difficult to obtain. If you are a conservative Christian Republican or Tea Party, then Cuccinelli and the Republican ticket are for you.

Cuccinelli has tried to characterize campaign ads highlighting his socially conservative agenda as “scaremongering,” but the Washington Post editorials recently called him out on campaigning centrist and running right, saying he’s bragged about it before.

If you are a libertarian, you should vote for Robert Sarvis; you’re on your own for the rest of the ticket.

Robert Sarvis is running a strong campaign for the libertarian ticket in Virginia this year, I suspect largely because mainstream conservatives are dissatisfied with Cuccinelli’s social agenda. Sarvis’s platform sounds traditionally libertarian: his policies support weak government largely unable to regulate both personal and corporate behavior. As such, he takes some positions that are typically considered contradictory, such as a significant liberalizing of drug and marriage laws, deregulation of gun purchases, dismantling the public school system, and rewriting the tax code. If this sounds like you, vote for Sarvis.

Side note: Many libertarians claim Sarvis’s low numbers are due to voters feeling like they must choose between a Republican or Democrat or waste their vote; I think there just aren’t that many people comfortable with the libertarian platform.

If you are disgusted with all three options, think politics is a corrupt and unredeemable system, or think all three of these guys are equally bad, do not vote.

Seriously, stay home. Although there’s a lot of pressure to get out and vote, if you don’t like the system, don’t think your participation matters, or don’t understand the issues well enough to be able to see the distinct differences between the candidates, we are all probably better off without your input.

If you are a Republican or a Democrat but are very upset with your party’s choice…

Then you need to get involved in the process a lot earlier than the general election. Your local organizations are easily approachable, and you have many opportunities during the year to drive the selection of local and state-level candidates. Waiting until the general election is waiting too long.

See also: