The Loyal Opposition

We don't really have a blueprint for what a "loyal opposition" looks like, do we?

Take the periods from 2008-2010 and then 2016-2018. Putting the filibuster aside, that's when we had (mostly) one party rule.  During those times, there was little for the opposition party to do aside from either vote with the ruling majority party or kvetch from the sidelines about what the majority was doing. The former constituted disloyalty, the latter, weakness. Millions upon millions of people voted for representatives that were confined to minority status and (almost complete) powerlessness.

Game theory - almost - dictates that such scenarios should make people vote for candidates that they didn't prefer. Better to have a candidate that you disagree with and has power that can be leveraged and positions that can be influenced than one that's utterly powerless, rendering their ideology meaningless.

We need to square that circle as we shouldn't have representatives that... can't represent.

Putting aside the un - democratic and disgusting nature of Trump's opposition to democracy, it's almost understandable that the 70+ million Americans who voted for him that will have NO real say on the next four years of their government would be cranky about that fact.

The effects are obvious.

The primary one is that every election is seen as more and more of an existential, apocalyptic reckoning after which the winners will hunt the losers down The Most Dangerous Game style and the values that they cherish will be burned to ash. Millions of ALL CAPS emails are sent to voters imploring them to vote and donate OR ELSE. 

And all that is despite the fact that the Senate filibuster is preventing any real, concrete statutory changes. And all that is despite the fact that the last big statutory change (the ACA) was a decade ago, and was miles away from extreme due to (still serving) moderate Democrats pulling things inexorably towards the "center". Democrats adopted a healthcare plan created by a Republican governor that barely became a law and is (ten years later!) still referred to as a "socialist" takeover. But I digress.

We need - aside from goofy mantras like "protecting the rights of the minority" - a way for parties in the minority to not be entirely out of power. If Speaker Pelosi says "we're going to pass this bill", there is no incentive for a Republican legislator to pull that bill in a more conservative direction in exchange for their vote. There's no incentive for them to work with the opposition to get money earmarked for their district (thankfully, that might be changing). And there's every incentive for them to obstruct and lie for maximum political and institutional advantage. The opposition's bills are BAD. All of them.

And yes, this is one of those weird times where Democrats (if / when they are in the minority) have every incentive to do the same. And they sometimes do.

All of that is not - is NOT - to say that if given some say in legislation, or incentivized in some way to actually govern, that the manic Republican fever would break and a new era of bipartisanship would dawn. That's not even the goal. The Iraq War was a bipartisan vote. The absurd over - funding of the military is almost always a bipartisan vote. It's another problem entirely, but bipartisanship isn't - and shouldn't be - a sought after goal. Influence is. 

There isn't really a cure - all to this problem. But for all the masses shouting "do your jobs!" at their representatives, it's worth noting that our institutions are set up in ways that don't actually allow them to do that. 

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