donkey suit

Do they or don't they?

At the beginning of next year we will have an important test to determine if Democrats actually want to govern or not. The Senate will likely have a vote on some rule changes to final start fixing the unworkable mess that the chamber has turned into.

If the small changes are adopted it would make it easier to confirm appointments by Obama and make it marginally easier for the party to govern. More importantly, it should discourage obstructionist tactics by sending the clear signal that if blanket obstructionism continues, Democrats are prepared to make farther changes to the rules.

One would normally assume people who run for office do it because they want to govern, but sadly that has not been the case with Democrats. Throughout Obama’s first term Democrats made it clear governing was not a top priority for them. Maintaining plausible deniability and the ability to lie to their base took precedent over getting things done.

Elected Democrats loved being able to use the 60 vote excuse to blame the “mean Republicans” for the lack of a public option, the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, or no climate change legislation; even though all of these things could have been accomplished with a simple majority vote using reconciliation. Democrats basically decided they would rather have almost nothing get accomplished then allow themselves to actually be held responsible for their real positions.

If Democrats don’t change the Senate rules at the beginning of the next session it will mean they believe having a go-to excuse for broken promises is more important than having a semi-functioning government system. It will be a telling moment to determine if Democrats are serious about governing or they just really like playing the part on TV.

Image by Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; adapted from Andrew Bulhak / Flickr under Creative Commons license.