Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) chatted with reporters yesterday, and sounded a little frustrated. He wasn't just concerned about reflexive and unprecedented Republican obstructionism, but also with what he sees as a double standard.
Referring, for example, to Republican opposition to funding U.S. troops last year, Durbin said, "Some of the votes [Republicans] cast -- we would be on trial for treason if we had voted against defense appropriations in the midst of a war."
He added, "They did it with impunity."
That's true; they did. Every reckless, irresponsible, hypocritical, dangerous, and incoherent step Republicans take, they do so "with impunity."
It's not exactly a mystery. Republicans believe they can use tactics that ignore election results, make a mockery of democratic norms, and effectively prevent a governing majority from functioning because they're pretty confident that Democrats won't effectively raise a fuss, the media won't care, and the public won't know. And they're right.
Let's look at this in a different light by imagining a hypothetical.
Let's say Democrats ran the government for several years, and ran the country into a ditch. Democratic rule led to near-cataclysmic results on everything from the economy to national security to the budget. Disgusted, voters elected a Republican president with a huge mandate, gave Republicans the biggest House majority either party has had in 20 years, and the biggest Senate majority either party has had in 30 years.
Then imagine that, despite the overwhelming edge in our imaginary scenario, Democrats decided -- during times of foreign and domestic crises -- that they simply would not allow the GOP majority to do much of anything. Dems ignored the election results and reflexively opposed literally every bill, initiative, and nominee of any consequence, blocking anything and everything. Republicans could hold the reins of government, but they would not be allowed to use them.
In this hypothetical, despite two wars, Democrats rejected funding for the troops. Despite a terrorist plot, Democrats rejected the qualified nominee to head the TSA. Despite an economic crisis, Democrats rejected economic recovery efforts, a jobs bill, and nominees to fill key Treasury Department posts. Despite a health care crisis, they opposed a modest reform bill and recommended privatizing Medicare.
Now, in this hypothetical, what do you suppose the political climate would look like? Would the huge Republican majority simply wring its hands? Would GOP officials decide it's time to try "bipartisan" governing? Would Republicans shrink from pursing their policy agenda? Would political reporters just accept this as how the system is supposed to operate, a dynamic in which a huge majority is simply preventing from governing?
Or would every single day be another opportunity for Republicans to be apoplectic about Democratic obstructionism? Indeed, how many marches on Washington would Fox News organize, demanding that Democrats allow the governing majority to function?
It's not enough for Democrats to say, "If we stopped Republicans from governing, they'd scream bloody murder." If Dems believe that, then maybe it's time to scream bloody murder.
Put simply, I'd like Democratic leaders to think about what Republicans would do if the situations were completely reversed. Then they should do that.