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"Requiem for the Pelosi Democrats"

From the WSJ:
"A lot of rethinking is needed" after Democrats take their drubbing, Mr. Baird says, especially since he anticipates "a huge number of retirements" from Democrats unwilling to serve in the minority. He proposes that the House elect an independent speaker who would help drain partisanship from the body. Britain's House of Commons uses such a model.

Democrats, he says, will also have to recognize why they lost touch with voters. "Back in September, we had pollsters and strategists from my party tell members that the mass of people didn't care about the deficit. The mind-boggling lack of reality coming from some of the people who give us so-called advice is stunning."


This article is getting a lot of play, especially Baird's comments about Pelosi. The problem is that people like Pelosi would be nowhere without people like Baird.

So he's decided that Pelosi is kind of authoritarian. What was Baird's first clue? I guess it wasn't when they first handed her the gavel and she pranced around in front of the cameras with it, doing muscle-flexing gestures. Whatever it was, it took a hell of a long time for it to sink in, in spite of Baird's alleged eye for "ominous signs". In the meantime, he voted her the gavel four times and did everything she told him to do. In a House full of tools and pussies, how can you not be an authoritarian?

Then, Baird tells us, he went on to warn his fellow Democrats about all the stuff Baird was supporting and voting for, right down the line to the last tiny detail.

Now he's crapping out, his district is going double-digits for a Republican, and he waits until barely three days before Pelosi's assured overthrow to say I told you so.

No sooner did he say it than the guy who ghost-wrote Profiles in Courage suddenly just dropped dead. I think there's some cosmic connection.

He proposes that the House elect an independent speaker who would help drain partisanship from the body. Britain's House of Commons uses such a model.

How would that work, exactly?

Independent Speakers in the House of Commons may not vote, introduce bills, or participate in any party's caucus. That, and a horsehair wig. We don't have any such people in Congress - neither do we have a Queen, who has to approve the appointment of such a person.

The idea is that since the Democrats can't have the Speakership, the Republicans shouldn't be allowed to have it, either. This is more of Baird's "morning after" wisdom.

I think it's a decent idea to have more political posts that are appointed apolitically. It doesn't have to be a "anybody but you" gesture.

The only problem is, we don't really have apolitical leadership anymore. So where would this person come from? And how could we get them to remain apolitical in office?

There is no such things as even the veneer of apolitical anymore. Can someone name a high profile American that is considered a-political that isn't an actor or an athlete? The military is deemed political, the supreme court, academia, certainly the media... unless we ask Vince Vaughn to take the job I'm not sure who would be agreeable.

This is probably a good thing. The truth is we are a country deeply divided on core principles and tugging in opposite directions. When one party is in power it makes sense that the other party should be willfully obstructive. Of course they should- if you believe we're going in the wrong direction why in gods name would you enable that in the name of bipartisanship?

I'll argue it isn't the conflict that has gotten us into trouble- its the accommodation. Our political class has learned to work the system for their own benefit while squabbling around the edges in public and putting on a good show. Witness the hissy fits put on by Markowski and Crist when their party had the gall to bump them out in favor of outsiders. Witness how their own parties (and the media) worked to reward them instead of punish them for defying the will of the voters... even to the point of possibly handing seats to the other (much less popular) party.

We need to have a big fight, we need to see who's right and who's wrong, and our current ruling class goes to great lengths to make sure that never happens in a way likely to rock their boats.

So you guys want an "apolitical" leader ... to do what, exactly? What sort of apolitical leadership are you in need of?

I was kindof thinking something like a house referee. Hadn't completely thought it through, but the idea intrigues me. It's probably completely impractical, but interesting nonetheless.

I think this "Apolitical Leader" will have to be an absolute authoritarian, and while we are at it should also absorb the duties and accouterments of each parties Whips.

It would also seem to me to be ideal if said Leader were to be the spawn of Pelosi and Boehner.

The British system is vastly different from the American one. For instance, the American system could tolerate having people from 20 or even 200 different political parties with equal representation in the House of Representatives; it would require a lot more negotiation to get bills passed, but it wouldn't break the system. In Britain, it would result in a broken government. (In fact, in Italy, which has a similar system, it was normal for governments to last an average of about 9 months until the last twenty years or so.) Of course, you'd have to change the voting system away from first past the post before you would get more than two parties, but nonetheless the rest of the system could tolerate that and still remain functional.

Changing systemic parameters requires thinking through the entire system and how it functions, if you want to avoid tragic consequences. It is for this reason (failure to do that thinking) that direct election of Senators, the neutering of the Electoral College, and the term limits on Presidents (but only on Presidents) have had such bad results.

It would also seem to me to be ideal if said Leader were to be the spawn of Pelosi and Boehner.

That has to be a violation of the posting rules.

Can anyone name a speaker who was not authoritarian?

When have we ever had "apolitical" leadership? If they're in charge, they're by definition political.

My guess is they look more political now since the MSM is weaker and is less able to define "reasonableness" and "moderation" - so what has always been true is simply more plain now: one man's apolitical problem solver is another man's fanatical ideologue. The only difference is in the, er, politics of the observer.

The thing that I took away from Baird’s comments is that the Democrats made a lot of mistakes while in power that the Republicans can learn from. Of course I don’t doubt that there was probably a Republican or two in 1996 saying that Republicans made a lot of mistakes while in power that the Democrats could learn from. I’m hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself. Again.

It would also seem to me to be ideal if said Leader were to be the spawn of Pelosi and Boehner.

And had orange skin and a facelift from birth? Thanks a lot, I'm going to spend the rest of the day trying to wash that image out of my mind.

Personally, I support drafting Morgan Freeman. He might not work out, but it'll sound great!

Yes, I'm punchy from all the political talk, can you tell?

The closest thing we've had to a non-partisan Speaker was probably Nathaniel Banks: a Democrat, elected to Congress as an American Party ("Know Nothing") candidate, and elected to the Speakership by Republicans after two months of balloting. Also a member of the Liberal-Republican party.

In the Civil War, he was known to the rebels as "Commissary Banks" because of his habit of losing his supply train.

You need to find another guy like that. Need to do it quick, though.

Having seen "Red" two days ago, the idea of Morgan Freeman as Speaker has a certain - appeal. Imagine the ways he'd discipline party stragglers??


Alchemist #7:

Alas, while it's a nice dream, I think I agree with, um, every substantive comment here about why this doesn't work.

Chiefly, that the post doesn't work that way and would probably require a Constitutional Amendment to even get anything close; no one in politics is apolitical; and outside of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a disinterested apolitical mindset does not actually imply good judgement.

I can still dream about actual bipartisanship, though. Not the modern sense where one party lectures the other and then steamrolls the opposition when they fail to fold over like a house of cards. But the older sense where two groups find the intersection of policies palatable to both, and then work on those.

Toc3, #11,

In all seriousness, I think most of the early ones were non-authoritarian because they mostly lacked the authority. Today, even without force of personality, the position is still powerful. Back in the day, though, in order to push the House around, you had to have a personality on the order of Henry Clay.

Some day in the far, far future, when I have enough free time, I would like to read Remini's book on the House to see if my basic understanding is correct.

My problem with Baird is the same as the "morning after" generals on Iraq. However congenial I may find his particular advice, I can't escape that it's coming from someone whose own track record of judgment is poor, after he has conspicuously failed to act on the reservations he now says (after the fact) he had.

I simply cannot respect that. Not then, not now.

His analysis still needs to be evaluated on the merits. But it's worth asking if his blindness and poor judgement has improved so suddenly. Take his point about the reality disconnect, which seems so intuitively obvious. I'd actually argue that he's wrong. If the reality is long term power for those who pay them, it's rational to sacrifice people like him, and lie to them along the way. He's assuming a level of honesty that, given the circumstances, requires examination. Just one way in which caution about the analysis he offers is both understandable and, frankly, warranted.

It's possible to be in a Milgram Experiment, and learn from it, and vow not to do that again. If Mr. Baird ever gets another opportunity, it will be interesting to see if he follows through. At that point, I'd take his judgement much more seriously.

On the speaker proposal...

The Congressional speaker should be that "Let's get ready to rrrummmmble!" guy from the WWE. It would be honest, at least.

Having seen the British Parliamentary system first hand for some time, I can say that it works very well - in a Parliamentary democracy. I don't think it would transplant very well in America.

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