There's No Rule Democrats Won't Change for Their Own Convenience

I experienced deja vu watching the Democrats’ rule change to include Michael Bloomberg into their debates, despite their refusal to change those rules for other Democrats who hadn’t met the qualifications for inclusion.  For nearly twenty years I’ve watched Democrats change the rules to suit their convenience of the moment.

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For example, those who are old enough will remember the case of Robert Torricelli, the Democrat senator from New Jersey who withdrew from his Senate race because questions about his campaign finance practices were causing him to lose popularity and threaten that his Republican opponent might actually defeat him.  However, his withdrawal left the Democrats without a candidate in that race, which in turn endangered their bare 1 seat majority in the Senate.  To further complicate matters for the Democrats, the legal deadline to put forward a new candidate had passed.

Never fear.  The Democrats went to the friendly New Jersey Supreme Court and got a decision that allowed them to call the venerable Frank Lautenberg out of retirement and run in Torricelli’s stead.  And, of course, the seat was saved.

For the second example we move to the Senate.  Many readers will also remember the contretemps over George W. Bush’s nomination of Miquel Estrada to the Washington DC district court in 2001.  By all accounts, Estrada was supremely qualified to sit on that bench, but he spelled trouble for the Democrats.  For one, he was conservative; for two, he was Latino; and for three, he may have been a White House choice for a future Supreme Court nomination.

Thus, at the behest of liberal activists, Democrats, newly in the minority in 2002, would not let Estrada’s nomination come to a vote in the full Senate (a vote they would have lost.)  For the first time in history a nominee to a sub-Supreme Court position had been effectively filibustered.  Estrada was filibustered seven times until he finally gave up and went into private practice.

The Democrats had again changed the rules.

And this rule change continued to advantage them in future fights over Bush’s judicial nominees.  In 2005, they used it to block a number of excellent Bush nominees, including Bill Pryor, Priscilla Owen, and Janice Rogers Brown among others.  Since, before the Estrada case just mentioned, filibusters had never been used to block lower court judicial nominees, Senate Republicans moved to change Senate rules to forbid the use of filibuster to block lower court nominees.

However, a “gang of fourteen” senators brokered a deal that stated that the use of the filibuster to block judicial nominees would be saved for only extreme cases.  Now in the minority in the Senate, the Democrats, in return for the Republican majority not eliminating the filibuster for lower court nominees, allowed the nominations of Owens, Pryor, Brown and the rest.  Then the Democrats filibustered almost all of Bush’s judicial nominees going forward.

However, this rule change, during the Obama administration, advantaged the Republicans when they were in the Senate minority in 2013.

Taking advantage of the earlier rules compromise in 2005, Republicans used the filibuster to block many of Obama’s most radical nominees.  But Harry Reed, since only a 51-seat majority is necessary to change Senate rules, changed the rules to allow judicial nominations to go forward with only 51 votes, thus doing what the gang of fourteen compromise had prevented in the Bush years.  Ironically, this returned Senate practice to what it had been prior to the Democrats’ institution of the filibuster for lower court judges to stop Estrada’s confirmation in 2003.

Of course, Majority Leader McConnell warned them how that would turn out and we now are close enough to the present to know how that change worked out for the Democrats when they tried to block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. McConnell simply followed the Democrats’ own precedent and changed the rules on them.

But have they stopped?  By no means.

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s winning the presidency in the constitutional and time-honored manner of winning the majority of electoral votes, the Democrats now talk of eliminating the Electoral College.  Failing that, they (accompanied by some naïve Republicans) seek to have the Electoral College reflect the popular vote when the two votes differ.  They seek to accomplish this by getting states to contribute their electoral votes to an electoral college majority even though the people in their state have voted differently.  The purpose, of course, is to rob the Republicans of an electoral college victory in case the popular vote should favor the Democrats, as it did in 2000 and 2016.

And this despite the fact that only 12 and 8 years ago, the Democrat candidate for president legitimately won decisive majorities in the electoral college.  It’s not that Democrats can’t win in the present system.  They just want to make sure that, given that the popular vote will almost certainly favor Democrats, Republicans will not be able to win at all.

So, when it comes to changing rules to get Michael Bloomberg (a marginal Democrat at best) into their debates, when they denied such changes to more genuine Democrats, it should come as no surprise that Democrats are now using against their own the strategies they have long used against Republicans.  To paraphrase one of the most famous movie lines ever…” Rules? We ain’t got no rules. We don’t need no stinking rules.”

William Terrell may be reached at www.billterrellcopywriting.com

I experienced deja vu watching the Democrats’ rule change to include Michael Bloomberg into their debates, despite their refusal to change those rules for other Democrats who hadn’t met the qualifications for inclusion.  For nearly twenty years I’ve watched Democrats change the rules to suit their convenience of the moment.

YouTube screen grab

For example, those who are old enough will remember the case of Robert Torricelli, the Democrat senator from New Jersey who withdrew from his Senate race because questions about his campaign finance practices were causing him to lose popularity and threaten that his Republican opponent might actually defeat him.  However, his withdrawal left the Democrats without a candidate in that race, which in turn endangered their bare 1 seat majority in the Senate.  To further complicate matters for the Democrats, the legal deadline to put forward a new candidate had passed.

Never fear.  The Democrats went to the friendly New Jersey Supreme Court and got a decision that allowed them to call the venerable Frank Lautenberg out of retirement and run in Torricelli’s stead.  And, of course, the seat was saved.

For the second example we move to the Senate.  Many readers will also remember the contretemps over George W. Bush’s nomination of Miquel Estrada to the Washington DC district court in 2001.  By all accounts, Estrada was supremely qualified to sit on that bench, but he spelled trouble for the Democrats.  For one, he was conservative; for two, he was Latino; and for three, he may have been a White House choice for a future Supreme Court nomination.

Thus, at the behest of liberal activists, Democrats, newly in the minority in 2002, would not let Estrada’s nomination come to a vote in the full Senate (a vote they would have lost.)  For the first time in history a nominee to a sub-Supreme Court position had been effectively filibustered.  Estrada was filibustered seven times until he finally gave up and went into private practice.

The Democrats had again changed the rules.

And this rule change continued to advantage them in future fights over Bush’s judicial nominees.  In 2005, they used it to block a number of excellent Bush nominees, including Bill Pryor, Priscilla Owen, and Janice Rogers Brown among others.  Since, before the Estrada case just mentioned, filibusters had never been used to block lower court judicial nominees, Senate Republicans moved to change Senate rules to forbid the use of filibuster to block lower court nominees.

However, a “gang of fourteen” senators brokered a deal that stated that the use of the filibuster to block judicial nominees would be saved for only extreme cases.  Now in the minority in the Senate, the Democrats, in return for the Republican majority not eliminating the filibuster for lower court nominees, allowed the nominations of Owens, Pryor, Brown and the rest.  Then the Democrats filibustered almost all of Bush’s judicial nominees going forward.

However, this rule change, during the Obama administration, advantaged the Republicans when they were in the Senate minority in 2013.

Taking advantage of the earlier rules compromise in 2005, Republicans used the filibuster to block many of Obama’s most radical nominees.  But Harry Reed, since only a 51-seat majority is necessary to change Senate rules, changed the rules to allow judicial nominations to go forward with only 51 votes, thus doing what the gang of fourteen compromise had prevented in the Bush years.  Ironically, this returned Senate practice to what it had been prior to the Democrats’ institution of the filibuster for lower court judges to stop Estrada’s confirmation in 2003.

Of course, Majority Leader McConnell warned them how that would turn out and we now are close enough to the present to know how that change worked out for the Democrats when they tried to block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. McConnell simply followed the Democrats’ own precedent and changed the rules on them.

But have they stopped?  By no means.

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s winning the presidency in the constitutional and time-honored manner of winning the majority of electoral votes, the Democrats now talk of eliminating the Electoral College.  Failing that, they (accompanied by some naïve Republicans) seek to have the Electoral College reflect the popular vote when the two votes differ.  They seek to accomplish this by getting states to contribute their electoral votes to an electoral college majority even though the people in their state have voted differently.  The purpose, of course, is to rob the Republicans of an electoral college victory in case the popular vote should favor the Democrats, as it did in 2000 and 2016.

And this despite the fact that only 12 and 8 years ago, the Democrat candidate for president legitimately won decisive majorities in the electoral college.  It’s not that Democrats can’t win in the present system.  They just want to make sure that, given that the popular vote will almost certainly favor Democrats, Republicans will not be able to win at all.

So, when it comes to changing rules to get Michael Bloomberg (a marginal Democrat at best) into their debates, when they denied such changes to more genuine Democrats, it should come as no surprise that Democrats are now using against their own the strategies they have long used against Republicans.  To paraphrase one of the most famous movie lines ever…” Rules? We ain’t got no rules. We don’t need no stinking rules.”

William Terrell may be reached at www.billterrellcopywriting.com