Last week someone I follow on Twitter posted a link to this bit of dreck from the young liberal “thinker” Jonathan Chait over at New York magazine. The story is entitled “How Mitch McConnell Hacked American Democracy.” I’m guessing that this is a bad thing.
The main gist of the piece appears to be that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is standing in the way of the passage of a bipartisan bill on energy efficiency in the Senate by, well, let’s let Chait explain it:
The proximate cause of the legislation’s demise was the demand by Republican Senators to hold votes on controversial amendments on issues like approving the Keystone pipeline and preventing new regulations on power plants. Obviously, attaching divisive amendments to a bill that was painstakingly written to avoid controversy is going to fracture its coalition, and so it did.
The minority party demanding to hold votes on amendments that might be uncomfortable for some members of the majority? I’m sure that’s never happened before. It certainly never happened when Democrats were in the minority. /sarc off
Chait says the bill was torpedoed to deprive vulnerable New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen of a legislative victory that she could use to stave off GOP challenger and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.
While the bill’s failure may hurt Shaheen (and I think it’s unlikely that amid all the other issues boiling in the 2014 midterm elections, this bill would affect Shaheen’s re-election chances), why would the GOP press for a vote on Keystone XL, since the approval of that bill would provide a significant boost to another troubled Democratic senator, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
So, while Chait’s analysis is a little naïve, it’s his lack of historical understanding that’s truly troubling. It’s just another manifestation of the idea popular on the left that history started when Barack Obama was elected president. No president had ever been treated like Obama was (because he’s black) and the party out of power had never done this, that, or the other thing before.
It’s only true if your study and observation of national politics began on Jan. 20, 2009.
Case in point, this statement from Chait:
The trouble is that [the framers of the Constitution] did not anticipate the rise of political parties.
Really? Then what was George Washington going off about in his farewell address?
I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
There’s nothing new under the sun. If Chait studied history a little more, he might embarrass himself less.