In the book, you say that Democrats are engaged in “policy fights” and Republicans are waging a “procedural war.” What does that mean?
The Constitution is a shockingly short document, and it turns out that it’s extremely vague on some key procedures that we rely on to help government function at a basic level. For the government to work, cooperation between parties is needed. But when that cooperation is withdrawn, it creates chaos.
Since the ’90s, when Newt Gingrich took over Congress, we’ve seen a one-sided escalation in which Republicans exploit the vagueness or lack of clarity in the Constitution in order to press their advantage in a variety of arenas — from voter ID laws to gerrymandering to behavioral norms in the Congress and Senate.
Another very important point the author brings up: policy basically doesn’t matter. There’s non-trivial evidence that people’s voting decisions are almost completely untethered from policy - people are just no good at connecting policy decisions to their source, and even worse at connecting policy outcomes to their source.
I’ve seen similar sentiments echoed elsewhere - the democrats need to start fighting dirty and breaking norms in the same way, or else things are only going to keep getting worse. Keep in mind that in this case, “fighting dirty” means trying unprecedented or norm-breaking things. Not illegal things - there’s nothing illegal about splitting California into 7 different states (and indeed, the idea that California and Wyoming can have the same number of senators is kind of a farce to begin with), or adding extra seats to the supreme court. As one commenter on DailyKos argues, this isn’t really “fighting dirty”.
On one hand, such moves are absolutely an escalation. On the other, this escalation currently is entirely one-sided, with one side falling increasingly further and further outside of the norms of both the system and good governance, and constantly appealing to norms when only one side is willing to uphold them is a recipe for disaster:
I don’t think we can restore order by respecting rules that are not respected by Republicans. I do believe we’ll have to find a way to end this procedural war at some point, but now is not that time. Republicans need to know what it’s like to be on the other end of normative violations. The Republicans are behaving like a party that believes it will never be held accountable for anything they’re doing, and so far they haven’t been.
That has to change before we can fix this mess.
The article brings up the way the republican party essentially stole a seat on the supreme court, which segways nicely into the most recent piece of evidence for the need to fight dirty - the supreme court just gave its stamp of approval for one such piece of procedural warfare.
The US Supreme Court on Monday upheld Ohio’s system for purging voters from the rolls.
The Court split 5-4 along partisan lines, with the five conservative-leaning justices, in a majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, upholding the system and the four liberal-leaning justices opposing it. The ruling focused in large part on technical interpretations of federal voting laws, although the argument underlying Ohio’s system is, in fact, a much bigger one about voter suppression.
So what is Ohio’s voter purge system? It’s a means of removing voter registrations that the state feels are outdated from its rolls — forcing someone to have to register once again to vote.
Now, call me crazy, but I get the feeling Merrick Garland would not have provided the swing vote in favor of this voter suppression policy.
And this is how things compound - republicans steal a supreme court seat, which allows them to avoid challenges to laws which exist solely to make it harder to vote (which disproportionately benefit them), which makes it harder and harder for the democrats to ever regain control.
So at what point is it worth it to start firing back and breaking political norms to the same degree? At what point do we have our “Flight 93” election?