Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Post-Apocalypse Senate

The Senate is about to go to "nuclear war." The Democrats have, it seems, enough votes to filibuster Gorsuch so McConnell will invoke, or at least attempt to invoke, the 'Nuclear Option' allowing the senate to confirm Supreme Court nominees with a bare majority. This was done in 2013 by Democrats after the Senate blocked all of Obama's lower-court nominations.


While people are discussing the short and long-term impacts of this (short term: Trump confirms Judge Judy, long term, President Booker confirms Barack Obama) The Omnivore wants to look at the "Narrative Gap."

The Narrative Gap

Simply put, the 'Narrative Gap' is the distance between the story the GOP (or the Democrats) want to be told vs. the narrative that the press generally is going to tell. For an example of this, hark back to the government shutdown where the GOP refused to pass a bill funding the government unless it also repealed Obamacare. They wanted the story to be that Obama/The Democrats, refusing to sign a bill that rescinded his signature legislation, was holding the government hostage--rather than the story (which was the one the media told) that the GOP was holding the government hostage by putting in a "poison pill" which was not otherwise necessary to conducting business-as-usual.

In this case, the gap was stark: the GOP wanted to be seen as the neutral party. The press cast them as the hostage takes.

NB: They were the hostage takers.

The Gorsuch Filibuster

In this case the Republican position is that (a) it was a presidential election year so of course they didn't hold a vote and (b) it's been like 80 years since a justice was filibustered so that's really extreme behavior. Also (c) no one can claim Gorsuch isn't qualified. He definitely is--and he has the consent of the Senate--so there's just no excuse not to confirm him. It's dirty pool for the Democrats not to.

The Democratic position is that Merrick Garland was blocked, unfairly, with a procedural maneuver and so they are blocking Gorsuch with a procedural maneuver. The GOP started it.

The GOP counters that the Democrats started it with going nuclear on lower court judges. The Democrats point out that the GOP was being historically obstructionist with those judges--so, hey.

Who Is Right?

The Democrats, it turns out.

What? Huh? Just Like That?

Well, yes. The reason that Garland was not given a hearing was because he (a) was very qualified and (b) was a really good moderate pick. If they'd met with him, given him a hearing, etc. it would have exposed the GOP as being obstructionist. Remember: they could always give him a hearing and then vote no--for any reason. The rationale not to give him a hearing is fear that some members of the GOP, needing to appear rational, would cave in and vote for him since there was no good reason not to.

Given that obvious underlying rationale, it's clear that the hearing refusal was, in fact, a procedural equivalent of the filibuster (just one that the majority party would prefer to use rather than the minority party) and, being applied to a supreme court judge, was, in fact new (or at least extreme) behavior.

It was not on par with lower-court appointments (and the Democrats weren't wrong about historic levels of obstructionism, either).

NB: Revocation of the filibuster for legislation would also be a step beyond even SCOTUS judges. The slope is probably actually slippery here--but the distance for each of these is still fairly stark.

What This Means

The reason the Narrative Gap is interesting and important is that it shines the light on the GOP's issue with "fake news." The GOP--far more so than the Democrats--is in a position of wanting the media to tell a story that is far more partisan than they are going to get from a closer-to-neutral source.

If that sounds like liberal bullshit to you, consider healthcare.

We just discovered that half the GOP wants to take people who are getting health insurance and kick them off. The other half wants to keep them on. Definitely promises were made that everyone would be covered--that's easy to find--but the most recent plans are to effectively roll back the Pre-Existing-Condition protections which are one of the most popular features of the ACA.

Essentially, the GOP knows it cannot afford to be honest about any of this (see attacking the CBO for both being too bad and not bad-enough) so they need a tightly controlled narrative story that will sell their ideas to different people at different times.

Is this like how the mainstream media lied about Obamacare being either affordable or You-Can-Keep-Your-Doctor?

No. Okay, kinda. The MSM was, in fact, way, way more inclined to believe Obama than the GOP--but even so, O-Care was a gamble in ways that the GOP healthcare bill or the filibuster story, or the government shutdown are not. If the GOP hadn't tried to kill it. If more states had set up their own exchanges, if more young people had signed up--and so on--things would be different.

The GOP is not wrong that the MSM is more friendly to Democrats. What is distinct is the rhetorical distance that the GOP needs to cover because of their position.

Basically it takes an ultra-partisan Fox News to make Gorsuch look like an extreme case while Garland looks like standard behavior.

This distance created the need / appetite for super-partisan media which, in turn, created the need / space for fake news. By positioning themselves with the message that non-right-bias stories were essentially liberal-media-lies, they weakened the GOP-voter's intellectual immune systems to the point where fake news could come flooding in, unopposed.

This behavior? It continues.

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