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Unconfirmed Suspicion

Just a point about Senator Warren’s vote to confirm Ben Carson—her explanation is risibly inadequate, and Jon Bernstein’s semi-defense is not very persuasive either—surely the risk of a dysfunctional Party is in one that primaries its legislators for being out-of-step on symbolic votes more than a Party whose legislators are, you know, in step on symbolic votes and don’t get primaried.

Still, and as a person who knows nothing whatsoever I feel I can say this aloud where people who perhaps might be expected to know things cannot, the obvious explanation is that Sen. Warren has traded her vote in this case for a Republican vote on (f’r’ex) Betsy DeVos. And part of that deal would be denying the existence of a deal. And it would be an excellent deal! Secretary Carson (ugh) was going to be confirmed by a Republican Senate Caucus that clearly doesn’t give a shit about anything of any kind. In general, Senators can trade symbolic votes for votes that change real outcomes, that’s excellent work.

I don’t mean to suggest that there’s no cost there, or that we shouldn’t be calling her offices to express our displeasure, or that we all just calm down. Don’t be calm! Now is not the time for calm! There will be time for calm someday, this I do believe, deep in my heart, there will be time for calm someday. But that day is not now. In fact, part of what would make such a hypothetical deal work is Sen. Warren taking a huge amount of heat for her end, very publicly. I’m just saying that (a) Elizabeth Warren is smarter than I am, and surely smarter than that Facebook post, that (2) trading votes is a normal part of government functioning, and I would dearly love to believe in the possibility of normal functioning of government right now, and (iii) that normal functioning of government always feels dirty and ugly.

Barney Frank said in his book that the important thing about a political event is that if, after it’s over, everyone feels better about themselves, nothing has been actually accomplished. I don’t agree with that—I believe in the long-term power of inspiration, demonstration and community—but it’s surely true that getting anything accomplished requires at some point some meetings that people would really rather not have had. I’m hoping Sen. Warren has been at some of those this week.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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