Half Measures

The "Nuclear Option" is far from nuclear. It's more like a hand grenade.

While it is true that judicial nominees and other routine nominations by the president no longer face the threat of a filibuster, Republicans can still block legislation. Ted Cruz can still shut down the government. Obstructionist Republicans can, and in all likelihood will, continue to nullify the results of our most recent national elections.

Far from draconian, the nuclear option is more like an intervention for an alcoholic in which the beer is taken from the fridge but the Kentucky bourbon stays in the cabinet.

Why was any part of the filibuster -- a Senate tradition that is not even mentioned in the Constitution -- left standing? Why not go all the way and eliminate the filibuster altogether?

Is the American political class that frightened by the prospect of actual Democracy?

Republicans may cry about the majority's abuse of power, but it was none less than James Madison who first warned us about requiring more than a majority of senators for cloture. Madison wrote, "the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule; the power would be transferred to the minority" (Federalist Papers Number 58, published 1788). You would think that Republicans, a party that prides itself on constitutional originalism, would appreciate the thoughts of the man who wrote most of the Constitution.

If Democrats did not want to truly "go nuclear," could they have at least made it somewhat of a challenge for the minority party to impose its will on the American people? Ted Cruz at least had the stamina to physically stand and speak as he read Green Eggs and Ham in the well of the World's Greatest Deliberative Body.

Why do Democrats insist on taking half measures instead of finishing the job?

The ultimate example of Democrats going halfway is the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Progressives wanted a single-payer system that would have provided a basic level of coverage for all Americans. All Congress had to do was remove the words "over 65" from the Medicare law to create a solution that would have been simple, effective, and complete. Instead, Democrats compromised with Republicans to create an unnecessarily complicated system that still allows insurance companies to maximize profits by lying to customers and committing fraud.

We can no longer afford half measures.

Unlike Democrats, the Republican party does not do anything halfway. The Republican definition of bipartisanship is that Democrats have accepted the Republican demands. A Republican nuclear option, which is almost sure to follow if Republicans gain control of the Senate, will almost certainly follow their scorched earth policy. Changes in the filibuster, tepid though they may be, make the already important 2014 elections even more critical.

Harry Reid has taken a small step towards restoring functionality to a truly dysfunctional Senate.

We must finish this intervention in 2014.