Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Chaplain to the Democrats?

In a now vanished comment, a commentator accuses me of "want[ing] the UUA to be known as the Democratic Party's Chaplain Office."

No.  I want UU religious institutions to the be conscience of Unitarian Universalists, even in, and especially in, their thinking as citizens.

3 comments:

Joel Monka said...

I was the one who wrote that post, and though I didn't save a copy of it, I can recreate the point I was trying to make. A couple posts back you were listing the sins of the Republican party, including "They have used the filibuster process to make the Senate operate on a 60 vote super majority to get anything done...

But, legality and constitutionality aside, there is no question that their purpose is to thwart the democratic process in the society at large, to which Unitarian Universalist congregations covenant to affirm and promote, on the basis of long-standing theological commitments."


But just how "long standing" is that theological objection to the filibuster? In 2005 this mass email went out from the UUA: "JOIN US TO SAVE THE FILIBUSTER! MONDAY MAY 23 4:15 PM EMERGENCY RALLY AT ‘SENATE SWAMP’ (corner of Constitution & Delaware Aves, near the Russell Senate Bldg) AND TUESDAY MAY 24 7 - 9 AM INTERFAITH SPEAK OUT ON SUPREME COURT STEPS
For information on the “nuclear option” and judges, including UUA letters of opposition, Visit www.uua.org.
WHY NOW??
With a vote expected on the “nuclear option” on Tuesday afternoon, religious people committed to protecting the rights of the minority to speak on issues that effect all Americans, must publicly stand for pluralism and democracy. We are committed to a pluralistic society with respect for the beliefs and rights of all people. Our Unitarian Universalist faith guides us on a path of affirmation of difference and preservation of the democratic process.
WE MUST SPEAK OUT!
“To claim that minority-party senators and their supporters are acting ‘against people of faith’ because they wish to preserve the Senate filibuster is an affront to millions of devout Americans."— Rev. William Sinkford, President, Unitarian Universalist Association"


Apparently we have long standing theological commitments supporting the filibuster if a Republican is president, and long standing theological commitments against the filibuster if a Democrat is president.

My position on the filibuster has been consistent throughout, and is based on my values. The Democratic Party's position has been clear, if not consistent- whichever profits the Democratic Party at the moment. Given that the UUA's position has changed to match the Democratic Party's position, and that both times theological grounds were cited for the decision, what's one to think?

Tom Schade said...

I have never argued that consistency on the question of the filibuster is a long standing theological position. I have argued that our theological position is to support and promote democratic processes in the society as a whole. The democratic process both includes protection of minority rights and majority rule.

I think that attempting to eliminate the power of the opposition to influence judicial appointments is undemocratic. Using the filibuster to require that the Senate operate on a supermajoritarian basis in almost all cases is also undemocratic.

To use consistency as the highest standard by which evaluate process and procedures means that nothing will change. After all, everybody hasat one time or another been on all sides of all these procedural questions.

Is your argument that the de facto 60 vote requirement for passage of any legislation in the Senate is a democratic practice?


Joel Monka said...

Yes, I argue that it is part of the democratic process. Neither filibuster nor cloture are addressed directly in the Constitution; these are rules of the Senate, voted on by the Senate themselves, and can be changed any time the Senate so chooses. Since the rule has stood through several changes of party in the presidency and the Senate, evidently there is bipartisan agreement that this is how they should operate- no matter what they might claim in a campaign commercial. And if the Senate chooses to change, then again it will be by the democratic process of voting.

So here we have elected officials voting on their own operating rules, and coming up with systems that survive even when one party or the other has a filibuster proof majority. That sure sounds like democracy to me.

You say, "I think that attempting to eliminate the power of the opposition to influence judicial appointments is undemocratic." My view is this: the Constitution gives the president the power to make those selections. The "advise & consent" feature was NOT intended to give the minority the right to overturn that power; it was intended only to prevent a president from stacking the courts with cronies so he could legally start a dictatorship. Absent, such a threat, or similar impeachable quality questions, to overturn the president's power to select would be to effectively convert our government from the strong president, independently elected model, to the parliamentary, the president does what the Senate permits model. If you want a parliamentary government, introduce an amendment and we'll vote on it. If the opposition party doesn't like it, then maybe they should work a little harder and elect one of theirs next time.

"After all, everybody has at one time or another been on all sides of all these procedural questions." No, not everybody has. Republican Senator Lugar and Democratic Senator Moynihan both held the standard I outlined above their whole careers. If a position is based on values and faith, then it should only change when your values change. Mine did not change when Obama was elected.