Thirty years of marriage have taught me a few things. For example, you can’t wash red T-shirts with anything else, and I have a drawer full of pink underwear to prove it. As much as I like Popeye’s, it’s not worth the arched eyebrows from my wife except once in a great while. And starting a fight is a lot easier than ending one.
There is a corollary to that last item: If you’re dead set on going to the mat over some issue, you’d better be more than 51 percent right about it. You need to be deep into the 60 or 70 percent range or you won’t just have a fight – you will trigger a long simmering war of attrition filled with silent car rides, slammed doors and muttered questions about your parentage.
This is what’s wrong with how the Senate is approving the new Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch.
No doubt you’ve heard how the Republicans changed the rules to shove him toward a seat on the court despite Democratic objections. The details are tedious, but effectively instead of needing the customary 60 votes to make it happen, they used the so-called nuclear option to lower the bar to 51. That’s 51 out of 100. And considering they hold 52 seats, that’s enough for victory.
So isn’t that just democracy in action – the majority ruling? Sure. But a key principle of the Senate has always been that laws and decisions are more robust if they have “buy in” from both sides. When you need 60 votes, you often must give opponents something they can support in your plan, which makes them your allies in its long-term success.
I’m not questioning Gorsuch’s qualifications, his Republican support, or his Democratic opposition. What I am saying is in recent years we have descended ever deeper into this dangerous trend: As soon as either party gets 51 percent of the power, it does whatever it wants and essentially tells the other 49 percent to go to hell.
And deep down there amid the nuclear fallout, the losers – no matter which party it is at any given time – wait in sizzling fury to renew the fight at the first opportunity.