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Is majority rule illegitimate?

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One talking point Republicans sometimes use about the reconciliation process is that if Democrats "jam through" a bill with only 51 (or, more likely, 56 or so) votes, that bill will be illegitimate in the eyes of the American people. But does welfare reform feel illegitimate to anybody? How about the Balanced Budget Act of 1997? Or the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, which really was passed in a flurry of unethical, and occasionally illegal, activity (though it didn't use reconciliation)?

Moreover, if simple majorities are illegitimate, then there are a lot of elected officials we need to send home, starting with the most recent beneficiary of this perversion of American ideals: Scott "51.9 percent" Brown.

Photo credit: By Harry Hamburg/Associated Press

By Ezra Klein  |  February 24, 2010; 1:40 PM ET
 
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Comments

Don't let reality get in the way of a good talking point.

Yeah, this GOP talking point is silly, but that doesn't mean that it will fall flat. The GOP just has a far superior message machine; they can push any idea they want and not get called on it.

They told us the Iraq war would pay for itself and last six months. They told us about mushroom clouds, death panels and a host of other nonsense. This current "51 votes" issue is actually mild compaired to the junk the GOP usually sells us.

Posted by: nisleib | February 24, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

@Ezra: "Is majority rule illegitimate?"

What you are asking is a *values* question.

E.g., Is filibuster abuse illegitimate?

@Ezra: "bill will be illegitimate in the eyes of the American people."

The issue is framing (as how your posting attempted). In a nutshell President Obama promised a "new kind of politics" (e.g., fair play) and facilitating reconciliation will prove to the American people what Congressman Joe Wilson a year ago, "You Lie!"

For President Obama's "brand equity," the ends should *not* justify the means.

Posted by: msa_intp | February 24, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Majority rule is 2 wolves and a sheep voting on the dinner menu.

Democracy is a supermajority requirement for menu decisions.

Freedom is an armed sheep.

Posted by: WoodbridgeVa1 | February 24, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

That poll you posted indicating that most people think a bill requires only 51 votes to pass makes this one a hard sell. That said, I neither know nor care if the GOP can educate the masses on the process enough to make their stupid talking point stick.

If we had just a smidgen of government cheese to go with every moronic Republican whine we get, we'd be in a much better place as a country. Democrats need to pass the damn bill.

Posted by: slag | February 24, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"Majority rule is 2 wolves and a sheep voting on the dinner menu.

Democracy is a supermajority requirement for menu decisions.

Freedom is an armed sheep."

Dude! The 2 wolves have 66.6% of the votes! That IS a supermajority!

...but anyway,

"Democracy is a supermajority requirement for menu decisions."

Where does this notion come from? I don't see it in my Constitution, but maybe the planet you come from has a different definition of democracy.

We don't want to eat the sheep, we just want the poor critter to be able to see the vet when he needs to.

"Freedom is an armed sheep."

Evidently you want the sheep to shoot the wolves. Is that your vision of "democracy?"

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 24, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Don't you mean

"One talking point Republicans sometimes use about holding reconciliation votes is..."

And doesn't it make the rest of the sentence sound goofy?

It's not a process, it's a vote. There are lots of procedural processes and most people don't care about them. As you have pointed out, people don't recognize a "filibuster" as a "process", they see senators that vote against a bill.

Pick a simple message and stick with it. This is a vote. It's not a special process, it's not a flying unicorn. It's a vote.

Posted by: BHeffernan1 | February 24, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Patrick_M can always be counted on to take the dimmest line through an argument. He holds that, should the wolves vote to eat the sheep, the sheep should honor the result. That's the rot that infects this country, now.

A friend taught me that Democracy is coming home one day to find your neighbors standing in your front yard, taking a vote on the disposition of your belongings. My friend usually casts that with the question of whether or not you stand there and vote with them, or do you go and get your gun.

Majority rule might be "legal", but that doesn't mean the laws that come out of it are right.

Posted by: msoja | February 24, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

"Patrick_M can always be counted on to take the dimmest line through an argument. He holds that, should the wolves vote to eat the sheep, the sheep should honor the result. That's the rot that infects this country, now.

A friend taught me that Democracy is coming home one day to find your neighbors standing in your front yard, taking a vote on the disposition of your belongings. My friend usually casts that with the question of whether or not you stand there and vote with them, or do you go and get your gun.

Majority rule might be "legal", but that doesn't mean the laws that come out of it are right."


Like it or not, msoja, we are a nation of laws that are passed by our elected representives.

If you prefer to live in a society where every citizen determines for himself or herself what is "right," and then expresses their view by using a gun on those who disagree, you should get some travel brochures for Somalia and Yemen. You obviously do not believe in our form of government.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 24, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

In Ezra Klein's dim world, Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on the dinner menu, and if the sheep declines the gambit, the sheep is the party of "no".

Posted by: msoja | February 24, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

--"Like it or not"--

I believe that used to be "love it or leave it", and it was aimed at idiots like you, Patrick_M, and was just as stupid as when you do it.

The founders set up our government as a shepherd to shoot wolves on sight, which is right and proper in dealing with wolves. Unfortunately, the shepherd has become corrupt, and is now in partnership with the wolves, and it's every sheep for himself.

Fortunately, the founders had the foresight to include that Second Amendment, which drives the stupid wolves crazy. It's a shame the founders didn't further proscribe the activities of the government, but perhaps all those guns out there will be enough to frustrate the slavering Kleins and Patrick_Ms licking their chops on the perimeter.

Posted by: msoja | February 24, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Good lord, what a stupid metaphor to use.

In our country it's *illegal* for the wolves to kill the sheep. What's not illegal is for the government to progressively tax the lot of them so that it can fund social programs to assist the Wolves if they lose their jobs and can't afford to buy food and police so none of them get violently out of control.

Posted by: MosBen | February 24, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

"If it is good enough to enter Senate with 51.9% votes; why is it not good enough to pass a bill with 51 Senator votes?"

Keep hammering this point. I may have my own differences with HCR; but Democrats - if wanted - absolutely should pass this bill with 51 Senators as needed.

Sen. McCain is completely wrong when he says 'reconciliation' of 51 votes cannot be used for something 'big' like HCR. What is 'big' and what is 'small' it is so relative and contextual.

I guess now that the 'meme' of 51 Senate votes is not bad is slowly 'sinking'; what Progressives need to do is 'doing HCR' is still incremental and it is big only to the extent how each and every major bill is big. That is the next mountain to climb.

Posted by: umesh409 | February 24, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and "love it or leave it" was a bludgeon to discourage any criticism of the government's actions. "Like it or not" as used by Patrick_M is a statement that we have laws in this country that aren't overruled by an opinionated person with a gun. The former attempts to shut down debate, the latter to inform that we don't live in anarchy.

Posted by: MosBen | February 24, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

"Is majority rule illegitimate?"

This would sound very strange to a citizen of any other democratic nation on earth.

Defenders of the filibuster need to acknowledge that majority-rules is the principle in every single other democracy (to my knowledge) and neither tyranny nor the sky-falling-in generally results.

The Dems are terrible at messaging on this. They need to start calling at every chance they get for an "up or down vote" on whatever the issue of the day is.

"We have a bill to solve X and the Republicans won't even allow it to come to a vote", etc.

Posted by: Modicum | February 24, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I've just found my new favorite quote:

"Freedom is an armed sheep."

Poetic, even though we all know that the Constitution only protects the arming of bears.

Posted by: etdean1 | February 24, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

"Majority rule is 2 wolves and a sheep voting on the dinner menu."

The peculiarity of this metaphor, often wheeled out by right-wing "libertarians", is that it imagines the poor and vulnerable as the wolves, while those who control much of the wealth and power in our society are cast as the sheep.

"Democracy is coming home one day to find your neighbors standing in your front yard, taking a vote on the disposition of your belongings."

Yet somehow that isn't, in fact, what democracy leads to. The franchise used to be restricted to landed property owners because of this fear. We have now had universal suffrage for a long time in the west and yet somehow private property hasn't been abolished and the dire predictions have not come true.

NB: paying ones fair share of taxes is not the equivalent of the neighbours stealing your furniture (or being eaten by wolves).

Posted by: Modicum | February 24, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

--"and yet somehow private property hasn't been abolished and the dire predictions have not come true."--

Then why does Wellpoint have to go hat in hand to the government every time it wants to raise its rates?

Posted by: msoja | February 24, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

--"Like it or not" as used by Patrick_M is ... --

He followed it with a series of statements that amounted to "Love it or leave it".

I thought it was obvious, but perhaps not.

Posted by: msoja | February 24, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Certainly passing health care measures with a majority vote is nothing new for Congress. But how about at every possible turn mentioning the GOP spending record when they want to pretend they care about spending money on HCR.

http://www.thefoldblog.com/2010/02/spending-debt.html

Posted by: Chris-TheFold | February 24, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

"--"Like it or not" as used by Patrick_M is ... --

He followed it with a series of statements that amounted to "Love it or leave it".

I thought it was obvious, but perhaps not."

Baaaah. The armed sheep is back.

Just for clarity, if you can't accept the Constitution (i.e. that we are a nation of laws enacted by our elected representatives), well in that case, yes by all means, you ought to leave and live in a country where you can be happy and run free with your fellow armed sheep.

If I hated the Constitution as much as you do, I would certainly leave the country, rather than exercising my First Amendment rights on Ezra Klein's blog.

Once again, there are countries where you can experience very little government intereference in your life and use your gun with gusto. Yemen and Somalia are calling to you.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 24, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Patrick_M - Wouldn't it be easier for you to move to Cuba, where the nice Mr Fidel has already appropriated the necessary sectors of the economy for you?

Posted by: msoja | February 24, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

msoja-

No, I personally like America, democracy, checks and balances, and the US Constitution just fine. I sometimes disagree with laws that are passed, but I don't diagree with our constitutional system of government.

It saddens me that you don't feel the same way, but you unhappy sheep do have alternatives.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 24, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

--"No, I personally like America"--

Then why are you trying to turn it into Cuba?

Posted by: msoja | February 24, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

msoja,

I'm not. I vote, I exercise my constitutional freedoms, I pay my fair share of taxes, and I enjoy my life as a free citizen in a constitutional democratic republic very much.

I wouldn't mind some latin jazz, Cuban cigars, and mojitos now and then, but the Cuban governmental system, that they can keep.

Now, your turn, why do you want America to be more like Somalia?

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 24, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

You're a thief, Patrick_M, and you're helping turn this country into a country of thieves, trying to steal all you can from your neighbors. Just because you are doing it "Constitutionally" does not change what it is.

Posted by: msoja | February 24, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

msoja,

I used to be a wolf. Now I'm a thief. Hey, maybe I'm a wolf in thief's clothing?

In any event, I am still in favor of the US Constitution, motherhood, baseball, and the 4th of July.

Thanks, lambchop. You are the gift that keeps on giving.

p.s. I wish the Republicans would follow your script at Blair House tomorrow, that would sure help them make the news, but I am guessing that they will approach the issues in a different way.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 24, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Jesus Christ I would never stop watching a clip of John Bohner making that tortured wolf/sheep metaphor. God, that would be awesome.

And if we want to compare the "overturning the American system" quotient of each side of this argument: Liberals in this post are arguing for a majority rule in the legislature and possibly a tweak to the tax system to pay for a system to allow people to buy health insurance.

Msoja is arguing that people should express their displeasure with laws which which they disagree through the use of guns. Now *that's* something I don't find in either the Constitution or case law.

Posted by: MosBen | February 24, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

MosBen,

Yes. If only the Republicans would use the "freedom is an armed sheep" metaphor tomorrow -- that would surely be some "must see tv."

It is funny how the Constitution takes second place if it results in anything which is in opposition to perceived self-interest.

A "true" conservative looks to the Constitution as a guiding star -- the meaning of the Constitution is what a conservative wants to "conserve," but for these guys the Constitutional process is just "thievery," whenever the elected representatives of the people are doing something that the selfish individual does not like.

That is when the guns come out. True patriotism.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 24, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

"It is funny how the Constitution takes second place if it results in anything which is in opposition to perceived self-interest."

For the teaparty crowd I don't think this conflict ever arises. They look at the constitution and see exactly a mirror of their own prejudices. So, of course, on the the true 'originalist' understanding the framers were Chicago School ideologues and favoured emasculated federal government.

Anything they oppose, like paying taxes, a first-world healthcare system, paying taxes, etc, is by definition unconstitutional.

They also insist that there is no other possible interpretation of the document.

Posted by: Modicum | February 25, 2010 7:34 AM | Report abuse

The Constitution was *supposed* to be a bulwark against the predations of the state and the tyranny of the majority.

Now it's come be a justification for same.

I really do need to buy another one or two guns.

Posted by: msoja | February 25, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Whatever floats your boat, msoja.

Have a good day.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 25, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

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