Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Irrelevance of Resistance in the Senate Confirmation Hearings


I find the Senate confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s cabinet interesting but a mainly a distraction. Far too many friends and colleagues are investing themselves in blocking this nominee or that. They are free to do so, of course, but it is something of a fool’s errand.

Donald Trump has won the election, and the Republican party controls:
  • The Presidency
  • The Senate (52 seats)
  • The House (241 seats)

This means that no matter what, if the Republican Party maintains voter discipline, it passes its candidates by simple majority vote.

This should hardly be controversial. The American voters have spoken, according to the rules of the Electoral College and voting tradition. There is a new government in Washington. This government has every right to form a cabinet and begin the process of governing.

In a parliamentary system, this corresponds to a vote of confidence upon announcing a cabinet. It happens all the time.

The Senate confirmation hearings are useful in reviewing personal priorities or opinions or past history, but that is all these can achieve. Yes, the current crop of nominated secretaries may be controversial or repugnant to some. But they have every political right to take office. That’s the result of an election, given the duopoly in the US political system.

A Parliamentary system with more than 2 parties might bring about a more serious confirmation process, but even this is uncertain given the elected representatives we see in many countries.

Anyone expending their time and energy on trying to block Betsy Devos or Jeff Sessions should understand this. A party elected by majority has a mandate to govern, with the candidates it selects. 

If these candidates happen to be dangerous ideologues not fit to manage a corner store … well … that’s the reflection of the Electoral College’s will. When you examine campaign finance and voting records: is Congress any different?

If people are really that angry, it may be far better for them to invest time and energy in something tangible, like organising for the 2018 mid-term elections. The confirmation hearings are a theatrical diversion that offer nothing more than reinforcement bias. 


(c) Philip Ammerman, 2017 

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