Friday, November 22, 2013

Actions And Consequences

As we head toward a weekend that we hope is filled with plenty of rest, we're pausing today to give a warning about unintended consequences, both in the past and the present.

Although right-wing media and politicians are crying the world's largest puddle of crocodile tears, as James Downie noted in the Washington Post yesterday, Republicans have only themselves to blame for Senator Reid and Senate Democrats using the so-called 'nuclear option' on Thursday.

The nuclear option is really just filibuster reform, a result of a long crusade by many, as Greg Sargent noted. It will have the benefit for all Americans of unclogging Congress a bit, as the minority party - currently the GOP - can no longer unilaterally obstruct virtually everything that comes before the Senate. Judicial appointments especially will likely zoom through now, as President Obama is finally going to be allowed to complete the constitutionally mandated part of his job in which he appoints new judges to the Federal bench.

As our staff discussed among themselves yesterday, and as everyone from Molly Ball to Ian Millheiser agreed, Republicans gave Democrats no choice but to blow up the old filibuster rules. Even while Republicans were stomping their feet and threatening heavy repercussions, as Paul Waldman made clear, the cries of vengeance coming from the right ring hollow, since Republicans would have likely done the same thing if they were in charge of the Senate - and they likely would have done it a long time ago.

To those who don't focus on politics regularly, the Democrat's filibuster reform may not seem like a huge deal at first. However, as Ezra Klein explained after the vote on Thursday, the unintended consequences of the change to Senate rules could affect a great many things.

A single action that caused massive unintended consequences is exactly what happened fifty years ago today, when President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed on a sunlit street in Dallas, Texas.

As we look through the images, audio, and video of that day fifty years ago, we can't help but notice how the right-wing's hatred of President Kennedy in the 1960s looks a lot like the vitriol they direct at President Obama today.

When it comes to the violent removal of a President from office - something that many right-wing extremists in conservative media have been openly endorsing for years now - we like to believe, in their hearts, that those angry Americans truly do not wish a horrific chain of events like that ever comes to pass again, no matter what hate-filled bile comes out of their mouths.

Look at the hell that was released when President Kennedy was assassinated. Those on the conservative right, many of whom were racists then and still are now, did not expect the civil rights movement to come from the White House of Texas native Lyndon Johnson. The women's movement that followed also caused those conservatives angst they still have to this day. The election of Richard Nixon as President would also arguably never have happened without Kennedy's death.

Kennedy's death also caused massive unexpected changes on the left, the biggest being Vietnam. Kennedy's death also led to Nixon's presidency and Watergate. The ripple effects from those events caused massive changes that are still being felt today, in areas from our all-volunteer military, to the massive NSA spying issues, to Nixonian policies which strengthened corporations, and weakened unions - which in turn lead to the massive inequality gap we're slogging through today.

The 'nuclear option' that was used in the Senate this week didn't kill anyone. Like the assassination of President Kennedy, however, we may all be feeling the unintended consequences for many years to come.

Time will tell.