Ben Sasse Has Idea: More Senate Slumber Parties, Less Democracy!
Stop looking at Ben Sasse, you guys! Because when you look at the senator from Nebraska, he has to perform for the cameras and be an asshole. So actually if you think about it, it's your fault that he and his fellow Republicans have destroyed government in a nihilistic exercise to hold on to power despite the expressed wishes of the majority of the American people!
The lecture begins, inevitably, with an invocation of the Founding Fathers, who are very disappointed in you, young man.
What would the Founding Fathers think of America if they came back to life? Their eyes would surely bug out first at our technology and wealth. But I suspect they'd also be stunned by the deformed structure of our government.
Are you duly chastened by the invocation of long-dead men who could never have envisioned a world where Black people and women could vote, much less hold office? Good, because now it's time to abuse "the left."
"Many on the left think the problem is the filibuster, which requires a supermajority to end debate and enact most legislation," Sasse warns darkly. "But ending the filibuster would allow political parties to change the direction of the country dramatically with a succession of shifting 51-49 votes. That's a path to even more polarization and instability."
Were you hoping for a lecture on the tyranny of the minority from a man whose state makes up 0.58 percent of the US population and two percent of the Senate? Ben Sasse can oblige! The gross inequities of the Senate were baked in to the Electoral College, but Republicans have replicated them in the House by doggedly gerrymandering the country to ensure that Democrats need a five or six percent voter advantage to take control of either chamber. And for the second time in 20 years, we are governed by a president who lost the popular vote.
But, please, Ben Sasse, tell us more about the perils of failing to respect the will of the minority.
Never fear, though, the great statesman has a solution for this problem: Let the Senate operate IN SECRET and without the obligation to stand for re-election! Because what ails the body politic is too much sunlight and accountability to voters. Bring back those back rooms filled with smoke, and limit the term of office to one, twelve-year period, possibly even allowing state legislatures to appoint senators. Hell, cut the voters out altogether, amirite?
OH, YES, HE DID!
Claiming that public hearings degenerate into "showmanship" and "competing for soundbites" in a chamber largely empty but for C-SPAN cameras, Sasse proposes closing the Senate while "making transcripts and real-time audio available to the public." How eliminating cameras would solve the soundbite problem, much less ensure attendance, the senator does not explain, other than to mumble something about letting committees control floor time. But not the minority, heaven forfend!
The problem, you see, is too much democracy. Accountability to voters is entirely overrated, and would be best done away with by ensuring that politicians are free to do what they like for upwards of a decade without fear of facing their constituents.
We ought to propose a constitutional amendment to limit every senator to one term, but we should double it from six years to 12. Senators who don't have to worry about short-term popularity can work instead on long-term challenges.
And speaking of the Framers and their imperfect democratic ideals, Sasse would like to return to the good old days before the 17th Amendment handed the Senate selection process over to those pesky voters.
"Different states bring different solutions to the table, and that ought to be reflected in the Senate's national debate," he blarps. "The old saying used to be that all politics is local, but today—thanks to the internet, 24/7 cable news and a cottage industry dedicated to political addiction—politics is polarized and national. That would change if state legislatures had direct control over who serves in the Senate."
The speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives just got indicted in a massive kickback scheme to funnel tens of millions of dollars from an energy company to his fellow Republican politicians. But let's take the Senate selection process out of the hands of the public and hand it to the legislatures. What better way to clean up Washington!
Sure this would allow states like Michigan and Wisconsin, whose legislatures have been gerrymandered for decades to entrench Republicans in power despite winning a minority of votes, to ensure GOP control on the federal level. But that's got nothing at all to do with Ben Sasse's suggestions to let them appoint senators. How could you even suggest such a thing? Ben Sasse is a good man, a Christian man, a family man, a man of integrity who just so happens to rubberstamp every insane, immoral, vindictive thing that comes out of the White House.
But wait, there's more! How about we write all laws in disappearing ink so they automatically vanish and leave Americans without a regulatory framework unless Congress actually gets off its ass?
Does, say, the Health and Human Services Department ever answer for its aggressive regulatory lawmaking? Of course not. Sunset all its authority in 12 months and watch lawmakers start to make actual laws.
Hey, remember when Republicans imposed the Balanced Budget Amendment in 2011 to impose automatic "sequestration" cuts as a spur to budget ceiling negotiations because lol, nobody would be crazy enough to shut down the federal government? How'd that work out again? Oh, right, the country elected a lunatic who literally tried to default on American debt so we could buy back US Treasury Bonds on the cheap. Other than that, cool plan, Ben!
And while we're racing toward the flat edge of the earth in this insane editorial, Ben Sasse has yet another bright idea. What if the Senate all bunked together in a dorm. It'll be like Real World meets House of Cards, only everyone is 60 and has liver spots. What happens when an octogenarian obsessed with corn is forced to room with a Black vegan who reads bedtime stories to his girlfriend all night long? Tune in to the CW to find out!
If someone on the street said that, you'd clutch your purse and back away slowly. But this profoundly un-serious rant is what passes for deep thought in today's debased, anti-democratic Republican party. It's yet another pathetic effort by the party hastily yanking up its pants to demand that someone clean up that giant dump in the middle of the Senate floor. And it stinks!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.