Thursday, January 28, 2010

Playing Hardball

Constitutional hardball is a concept I think we should become familiar with:
The practice has three characteristics: it involves arguments and behavior by political actors (including judges, although their role is less interesting than that of other political actors) that are defensible – though sometimes only barely so – by standard constitutional doctrine; it is inconsistent with settled pre-constitutional understandings; and it involves extremely high stakes (control over the national government as a whole)

Compare and contrast with David Axelrod here—he complains about Republican obstructionism, and says “there will be consequences,” but is vague about what they are. But it’s tough to see what they are: the average American doesn’t think about the filibuster, and isn’t aware of their importance in legislative politics. And it would take quite a lot long to educate Americans on the subject.

The consequences that Axelrod speaks of, the only way for Republicans to grasp them, is to play constitutional hardball: use reconciliation for as much as possible. I’m aware this can be a clunky way of doing things, but the key here is that you’re doing things as opposed to doing nothing. The former might or might not get you re-elected and might or might not result in good policy; the latter, on the other hand, will lose you your job and result in no policy whatsoever. Play hardball.

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