Fifty-Fifty

Congress is back in session. That means inordinate attention will be paid to the Sinematic senator, the Man of La Manchin, and disgruntled House moderates. Ain’t nothing the MSM loves more than a Democrats in disarray story. They’re playing that angle hard. In this instance, there’s some truth to the CW-driven narrative.

Ever since Jimmy Carter lost the 1980 election, Democrats have focused too much on presidential races. The fixation continued even after Bill Clinton broke the GOP’s winning streak in 1992. Democrats had controlled the House since 1954, they were confident they could hold it forever. They were wrong.

The Democrats’ House and Senate majorities included Southerners who were eventually replaced by Republicans. I have to give the devil his due: this was down to Newt Gingrich. He’s an excreable human being, but he led his caucus out of the wilderness before his defenestration in 1999.

The senate was more flexible and changed hands in 1980, 1986, 1994, 2002, 2008, and 2014. I omitted 2001 as there was a tie in the Senate broken first by Vice President Cheney then by a party switch by Vermont’s Jim Jeffords who became a Democrat. The current Fifty-Fifty split is not unprecedented, but it is frustrating.

The Fifty-Fifty senates allow Sinema and Manchin to hold legislation hostage. They’re particularly annoying because they’re drama queens. I get where Manchin is coming from, his state flipped hard from blue to red in the 21st Century. Sinema is a different story. She’s a former leftist turned annoying centrist. She seems to want to be John McCain in a frock. Her focus is on Arizona independents, so she ignores Democrats. A recent post by Josh Marshall clarifies why she’s doing what she’s doing.

I’m not sure why Sinema thinks she can become an independent who caucuses with whichever party is willing to gratify her ego. The two current independent Senators, Bernie Sanders and Angus King, were elected with an I next to their name on the ballot. Besides, they’re New Englanders. Arizona is a different story: the GOP has moved from Goldwater-McCain hawkish libertarianism to all out Trumper nuttery. As far as they’re concerned, Sinema is a pinko. Hell, they thought the same thing of the guy she replaced, Jeff Flake.

What bothers me most about Manchin and Sinema is the price they want the Democratic caucus to pay is amorphous. During the negotiations over the ACA blue dog Democrats Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu had tangible things they wanted as opposed to fiscal responsibility, which is a highly overrated concept. In the immortal words of Charlie Pierce, “feck the deficit.”

I’m amused by a notion that pops up some frequency on social media: the idea that Democrats won a “trifecta” in the last general election. That takes the horse race analogy way too far. We have a razor thin majority in the House and a Fifty-Fifty split in the senate. I don’t like it either but those are the facts we’re stuck with.

The LBJ analogy is overused by those who dislike facing the facts. There were 68 Democratic senators after the Johnson landslide.  He could also count on some GOP support. One of the most liberal senators then was Republican Jake Javits. You know, the guy the convention center is named for. He was an anti-Tammany Hall protege of Tom Dewey who voted more like George McGovern than Bob Dole. It finally caught up with him in 1980.

Major legislation always stumbles on its way to the final vote, especially when the margins are this close. I’m uncertain whether the major components of the Biden agenda will pass or fail. Coming down on either side right now is playing it for drama. Joe Biden isn’t into to drama; neither are Schumer or Pelosi. They want to get shit done.

The Sinematic senator and the Man of La Manchin are into drama. I wish I could say that they do not want to see the Biden presidency tank, but I cannot. She’s a selfish drama queen who only cares about herself and Manchin is the personification of the inside the beltway center-right Conventional Wisdom. It’s as if he takes marching orders not from West Virginia Democrats but from Politico. I’ve revived the Stupid Blue Dog Tricks category in their “honor.” Oy, just oy.

You’re probably wondering why the cover of the Zappa/Mothers album Overnite Sensation is the featured image. Zappa fans know it’s because of the song Fifty-Fifty. It’s a great song featuring a wild lead vocal and fabulous solos by Zappa, George Duke, and Jean-Luc Ponty. That’s Ponty, not Picard.

Like the song, “I figure the odds be Fifty-Fifty. I just might have some thing to say.”

I’ll skip the bit about loose dandruff and chartreuse breath.

The last word goes to Frank Zappa and the Mothers:

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