Friday, April 19, 2013

Losing shouldn’t be winning

Imagine the uproar if Michigan had been declared the winner of 2013’s NCAA Tournament even though the Wolverines trailed the University of Louisville Cardinals 76-82 at the final buzzer.
    This week, one more example of this kind of faulty score keeping has allowed the winners to lose and the losers to win.
    A proposal for extending background checks prior to some gun purchases not covered under current regulations was brought up for a vote April 17. The tally was 46 against and 54 in favor.  In the Alice in Wonderland world of the U.S. Senate, that meant the proposal was defeated!
    Every student of American government knows that passing a bill, including one to require background checks or limit gun magazines, requires 50 votes plus one. A majority is, after all, one more than the other side has, and America is celebrated as a country in which the majority rules and the minority, although protected, has to step away until the next vote.
    Anyone who thinks this is actually how things work these days has been bamboozled. Sens. Max Baucus, D-Montana, Mike Lee, R-Utah, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and James Risch, R-Idaho, and especially Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, all of whom opposed background checks, surely must appreciate how sweet is victory that comes despite having eight fewer votes than the other side.
    Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid is upset, again, even though he could have put an end to this absurd system at the start of this session of Congress last January. He allowed himself to be taken in—again—by hollow promises made by McConnell not to continue to invoke the filibuster rule requiring a super-majority of 60 votes in order for legislation to proceed. He allowed himself to ignore the obvious reality that the Republican minority was fully prepared to use this rule even in the face of the carnage inflicted by military-style weapons on little children in an elementary school.
    When a minority of elected officials can simply override the majority, no matter what the issue, we no longer have a government that even pretends to represent the will of the people. Because of the willingness of the minority to announce their intention to filibuster, even though they don’t actually have to stand up and do it, senators representing something like 11 percent of the country can now stop anything.  
    If the Senate were a basketball court, there would be no shot clock, nothing to prevent simply holding the ball and refusing to play, and 46-54 would bring home the championship.  It is time to replace the current players and get back to a world in which the team that scores the most points wins and the majority actually does rule.

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