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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Partisan Emotions

This post over at Plain Blog About Politics, one of my new-ish daily reads, raises an interesting point, obliquely. When folks like Eric Erickson call for a filibuster of Kagan, I don't think that it's that they think that such a tactic will work, in the sense of actually achieving an end. For the partisan, it can be that the tactic is the point.

Many people derive psychological utility from partisanship, or the actions of their co-partisans, in much the way that, say, fans of the Dallas Cowboys derive satisfaction from the performance of their team. Partisans like it when their team adopts a more confrontational posture, for its own sake. They often like to talk trash. They like to see the other team bruised, humiliated. Just like in hockey, they love their own team's goons and hate hate hate the other teams'.

I actually think that this is part of the reason that many on one side of the aisle have been disappointed in Obama. It's not just that he hasn't done things that they would have liked him to do. It's also that he has adopted too conciliatory a tone. He hasn't provided his partisans with enough red meat.

Again, I'm not saying that a more confrontational posture is desired for its practical effects. I'm saying that it is desired for its own sake, by some people.

In many ways, the Old School Senator is as frustrating to certain folks as is "Obama as Spock" to others. If one really carries oneself in such a way as to maintain the dignity and decorum of the institution, then folks in certain parts of the system are going to be dissatisfied, even if you have an extremely conservative voting record. This is almost certainly the problem McConnell has in Kentucky. Like him or hate him, but McConnell is pretty old school. Maybe Inglis in South Carolina (on the House side), too.

So would an "active filibuster" of Kagan "do any good"? In all likelihood, it wouldn't change the final outcome. But it's not just about delay, for the partisans, on the outside looking in. It's about "not conceding." Not giving up. It's about playing the entire game. And yes, many folks are completely fixated on the game.


At 11:34 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

I have trouble begrudging the right its symbolic opposition on this one, even if it is bound to fail. Hell, I would have liked a Dem filibuster on Alito on the same grounds. But at some point, to prevent complete judicial nomination gridlock you've got to have a handful of institutionalist senators who put long-term comity above short term partisan interests. And the GOP isn't going to get many Dem nominees more to their liking than Kagan (whereas I'd say that Alito was at the far end of acceptable).


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