“These fickle fuddled words confuse me
Like will it rain today
We waste the hours with talking, talking
These twisted games we’re playing.” — Dave Matthews
There is a growing gap in American politics I like to call the “frustration gap.” It’s difficult to articulate without going into concrete examples. So, we will take one issue that is currently being bandied about and provide an example of how the frustration gap works.
The Senate recently dropped the idea of the $15 an hour minimum wage. The machinations of why this occurred take some time to explain. See, the Senate doesn’t really operate as a democratic (small d) body. The House of Representatives does that. If a majority of members want to get something done and the Speaker of the House is on the side of the majority then it gets done.
The House has already passed the 1.9 trillion dollar Coronavirus Relief bill with the $15 dollar an hour minimum wage included. They’ve also passed the George Floyd Bill (again) and have passed comprehensive voter’s rights legislation (again). So, majority certainly rules in the House. It comes to die in the Senate.
Yes, the Democrats officially hold a slim majority there once you add in the vice president. However, the Senate has rules that prevent anything from happening unless you have a 60-40 majority. The Democrats attempted to include the minimum wage as part as a limited time only budget reconciliation bill. This allows the Senate to bypass the 60-40 cloture rule. The Parliamentarian in the Senate would not allow the minimum wage to be considered as a part of that process.
The frustration gap exists because most people don’t take the time to educate themselves about arcane legislative processes. What they know is simple. The Pew Research Center reports that two-thirds of those surveyed are in favor of the $15 dollar an hour minimum wage. Yet, it never seems to happen. Thus, you get frustration.
That frustration gets multiplied when you start piling on other issues. There are any number of issues where a vast majority of the American people want something. Yet, instead of giving the people what they want, the Senate is in desperate need of a plumber. Legislation gets stacked on its desk and it stays there until it dies an unnatural death.
Frustration often leads people to do something. Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way, but it certainly isn’t the American way. We’ve already seen the results of frustration on January 6th and we see it at the ballot box every two years. Congress has changed hands more times since 1994 than it had going back to the beginning of the 20th century.
It’s simple. People see dysfunction and lack of movement and they blame both sides. This is why the both sides arguments always piss me off. One party obstructs and they somehow get rewarded for their obstruction. Sure, there are legitimate arguments against raising the minimum wage and no issue has universal agreement. Yet, the vast majority of the population has rejected those arguments.
So, the frustrated populace has a few choices. It could sit around and wait for things to change on its own. It can rid Congress and the legislatures of so-called wishy washy Democrats and continue moving that party to the left. What they could also do is simply vote out the obstructionists. Unfortunately, they had their bite at Mitch McConnel and failed to act. Still, they could continue to vote out GOP members and vote out crazy members of that party.
Democrats in the Senate could also have the courage to finally rid our government from the clutches of the filibuster. It’s far past time. For every “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” moment there is the reality. The vast majority of filibusters in history have been noted for their opposition to things the majority wants like civil rights legislation. They’ve stood in the way of progress. It’s time to blow it up. The upshot is that the unwashed masses will look at this mess in 2022 and blame Democrats. Then, they will elect the very people responsible for the mess in the first place.