A political thought exercise

My training today was a nightmare, but not for any fault of any of the people involved. For whatever reason I couldn’t get to sleep last night– I was awake and mindlessly scrolling through TikTok at 1:30 in the morning– and I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually get to sleep until after 2 AM, only to be back up at 7:30. Somehow I managed to get to the training without getting any actual caffeine in my body, which … what? That shouldn’t have even been possible, as I’m generally less likely to leave the house in the morning without some form of caffeine consumption than I am to leave without my pants, but it happened.

And then the training was in this tiny, windowless, concrete-block shitbox of a classroom with no moving air and not a whole Goddamn lot of air conditioning, and on top of that the room featured those horrible one-piece desks that I am, at this point, simply too fucking fat to sit in comfortably. I eventually got up and commandeered one of the two teacher chairs in the room, pulling it up to an empty desk, because fuck it, I’m not going to be in pain for three hours, but between the lack of sleep and the temperature and everything else, staying awake was a nightmare, but not in any way that I blame the presenter for. He did fine, and the actual new textbook adoption seems initially pretty solid, although I’ll need to look more carefully at it later.

I actually took a nap when I got home, and slept so hard that I woke up three hours later convinced it was the next morning, and it took several moments of genuine confusion about why it was so bright in the room before I realized I’d only slept for a few hours. I think the boy’s still alive. I should go check on him after this post is done.

Oh, and when I checked the mail I had another jury summons, my second of 2022 so far. I will, I’m sure, still not make it into an actual trial.

Anyway. That thought experiment.

Let’s imagine that we’re a member of a political party. For the purposes of this conversation it genuinely doesn’t matter which one, and while I’m framing this as part of America’s two-party system, I don’t even really know that a two-party framework is necessary. Let’s further imagine that whichever direction on the spectrum our party generally leans, we are personally somewhat further in that direction than the average party member. So if you’re a Republican, you’re more conservative than most, and if you’re a Democrat, you’re more left-leaning(*) than most.

So here’s the question: your party is not a monolith, as I’ve said, and you’re more , I’ll say polarized, than most. Which of these two scenarios is better?

  • Your party has a slim majority, where the loss of more than one or two members of your party means your legislation isn’t going to get passed, but nearly all members of your party are generally reliable votes for your party’s legislation;
  • Your party has a considerable majority, but includes a significant centrist wing, so legislation from your party is more or less going to get passed, but virtually everything is going to require getting through that more centrist wing and therefore will require inter-party negotiation and, more than likely, watering down of the priorities that the people at the longer end of the tail– you, in other words– are going to want.

There’s been a lot of talk since the Dobbs decision about how Obama had a supermajority in 2008 and should have codified Roe into federal law while he had the chance. I am going to ignore most of the details of this argument and look specifically at one thing: that Obama did have said majority, for a few months at least, but that said majority included at least a dozen Senators who were considerably further to the right than any current Democratic Senator other than the oft-maligned Mr. Manchin, and I’m sure a couple of them– Joe Lieberman, anyone?– would have ended up to Manchin’s right if compared carefully. Nearly all of those people are no longer in the Senate. Why?

Well, most of them were replaced with Republicans. And it is very difficult to imagine that once Sen. Manchin retires he will be replaced with anything other than a Republican, and a considerably more conservative Republican at that. I remind all of you that I live in Indiana, and have counted among my Senators both Evan Bayh and Joe Donnelly during my lifetime. Neither were especially reliable Democrats, but they were Democrats, and their current replacements, Mike Braun and Todd Young, are not improvements over either of them.

The Democratic Party as a whole and particularly the Democratic Senators are considerably to the left of where the party was in 2008. Not to the degree that the Republicans have moved to the right; not even close, I don’t think, but the movement is undeniable, and at least part of the reason is that we’ve effectively pruned the right wing of our party during the last fourteen years. And as a result we have 48 more-or-less reliable Democratic votes, or at least reliable Democratic-caucusing votes, since I’m counting Bernie Sanders in that mix, and we have Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. I feel like Arizona could do better than Sinema; West Virginia will not be improving on Manchin.

So, again, your question: Are we better off? Why or why not?

(*) Left-leaning people currently being in a little bit of a civil war about nomenclature, I’m going to choose for the purposes of this post to stay agnostic about it.

Published by

Luther M. Siler

Teacher, writer of words, and local curmudgeon. Enthusiastically profane. Occasionally hostile.