If you have not been watching C-SPAN this week, you are missing out on one of the best debates in recent memory. While many have said that the behavior of the Senate in the last week has been the nadir of American politics, I disagree. The process that is going on right now is American politics in action. I know that it’s not particularly appealing to wade through the procedural arguments underway right now. And the level of rhetorical mudslinging is very nearly noxious to the sane observer. But this power play is the result of a two-party system and a two-body legislature that is resolutely and constitutionally set at loggerheads with the executive power. The fact that this democratic process is ugly, slow and overly deliberative is not a sign of its weakness, but of its strength.
Though a “non-binding” resolution, the issue before the Senate it is not meaningless. There is no better proof of this fact than the protestations of the Republican party against being forced to vote on the resolution: they know that this vote will reveal deep divisions within the party, which may provide Democrats with the opportunity to apply leverage to fissures in a GOP that Bush (and Cheney/Rove) had tried so hard to forge into a unified block. This is already evident, since 17 of the 246 votes that brought the House resolution to pass were Republican.
Do not get too caught up in the procedural finger-pointed. It should be recalled that not quite two years ago, it was the Republicans (then majority) who demanded an “up or down vote” on judicial appointees. At that time, the rhetoric reached such a pungent state that Republicans threatened to erase the fillibuster from law. Debate at that time was saved by the “group of forteen” who brokered a truce in face of the “nuclear option.”
These are the issues that define how politics works, how our debate takes place.