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Treaty Politics

[ 19 ] December 10, 2012 |

It’s hard to know precisely what to say about the GOP’s rejection of the United Nations Disability Convention.  On the one hand, it’s true enough that the real impact of the treaty will be pretty limited. The number of states jogged into ratification/compliance by the US example won’t be particularly high, and US law already enshrines most of the treaty provisions.  On the other hand, it’s obvious that opposition to the treaty is drenched in a particularly noxious brew of stupidity and mendacity.

Two thoughts:

  • The ability of the social conservatives (with organizational assistance from the neoconservatives) to mobilize opposition to this treaty was genuinely impressive.  That several Republicans apparently shifted their votes at the last minute, and in the face of significant lobbying from Dole and McCain, suggest to me that there’s raw terror in the ranks of the power of social conservatives and Tea Partiers in the primary system.  If they can mobilize such opposition to a treaty that posed virtually no threat, I really wonder about the sustainability of the kind of norms that Scott often discusses on the treatment of judicial nominees. Will any Republican who votes for cloture on Obama’s next Supreme Court nominee, even if that’s followed by a “No” vote in the up or down, be subject to a well-funded primary challenge? The move of Jim Demint to the Heritage Foundation probably makes such challenges more likely, and more effective.
  • The overall effect of the abdication of serious foreign policy thinking (and I mean “serious” in a sense of the term that includes John McCain, with all the absurdity that entails) on the part of the GOP’s legislative cohort would seem to be an enhancement of executive foreign policy prerogative.  Agreements (bilateral or multilateral) once subjected to the treaty process will now be conducted by executive agreement; ongoing operations (whether legitimately covert or not) will increasingly be screened from Congressional oversight, as such oversight will amount to little more than efforts at point scoring.  To some extent it has always been thus, but the modern GOP seems (with a few exceptions) to have taken such tendencies to the extreme.  I suspect that this will apply to both Republican and Democratic administrations, although it may manifest differently.

Comments (19)

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  1. rea says:

    Arthur Vandenberg wept.

  2. mpowell says:

    It’s not just foreign policy. It’s everything. These Republicans have no interest in governance. That’s why there is a horrible curiosity in what will come out of this grand bargain negotiating process. I just can’t see the Republican majority in the House producing a bill that comports with reality. They want to give money to their corporate friends, cut taxes or keep them low and not raise the debt ceiling. Even if the Dems gave them whatever they wanted, I’m not sure they could get the numbers to work!

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      You don’t, you can’t, cooperate with an illegitimate regime. You destroy it, or bide your time until you’re strong enough to destroy it.

      It’s like 19th c. France. The Orleanists or Bonapartists in the parliament have no real interest in governing, just in blowing up the Republic and bringing back the monarchy, or the empire. Sitting in the Chamber of Deputies is just a time-killer for younger sons of the aristocracy, until the King or Emperor comes into his own again, when they can go back to being bishops and colonels.

      The true function of the state state is to serve as a mechanism for distributing grace and favor, pensions and preferment, governorships and royal monopolies.

      The weirdest transformation of political terminology hasn’t been what happened to the word ‘liberal’ since John Stuart Mill — it’s what happened to the word ‘republican’.

  3. jefft452 says:

    “…it’s true enough that the real impact of the treaty will be pretty limited.”

    I don’t think that matters,
    or to the extent that the treaty was mostly symbolic it make the R position worse

    It damages the R brand
    Its one thing to say to the disabled “well, we would be on your side, but this isn’t just a mom & apple pie vote, there are many other factors, etc etc”

    Its another to say to the disabled “Which side are we on? Not yours”

  4. cpinva says:

    true enough:

    On the other hand, it’s obvious that opposition to the treaty is drenched in a particularly noxious brew of stupidity and mendacity.

    and i agree with the thoughts that followed. however, there is a harsh reality that the republicans cannot escape, barring them being to force pregnancy/birth, and then keep those children on a separate island, where they’re trained to become GOP seals. that reality is that their base is dying off.

    as well, their fundie christian base is aging too, and 1:1 replacement, from voting age on up, isn’t occurring. as a consequence, their opportunities for gaming the system are in decline. the only real way to change this inevitablity is to become democrats, which would sort of negate their whole purpose for existing.

  5. dan says:

    Republicans have been strange for a while, but what interests me about this is how utterly, utterly indefensible the institution of the United States Senate is. I can’t imagine any other country would look at it and say “equal representation for Wyoming and California!? Plus filibusters!? And a two-thirds majority requirement to ratify treaties!? We have to get one of those!!!” Anyone writing a constitution from scratch, if presented with the option of such a legislative body, would never consider it.

    • Sly says:

      Anyone writing a constitution from scratch, if presented with the option of such a legislative body, would never consider it.

      The guy who thought it up had a particular purpose in mind.

      “The landed interest, at present, is prevalent; but in process of time, when we approximate to the states and kingdoms of Europe; when the number of landholders shall be comparatively small, through the various means of trade and manufactures, will not the landed interest be overbalanced in future elections, and unless wisely provided against, what will become of your government? In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability.

      It’s the bourgeoisie’s House of Lords.

      • NonyNony says:

        Yes. This.

        The Senate is fulfilling its purpose. It’s supposed to be there to blunt the effects of democracy on the rich. And that’s exactly what it does.

        It’s only gotten moderately less effective at this role since Senators became popularly elected instead of appointed.

        • Lee says:

          To be fair to the people who wrote the Constitution, it was also a necessary concession at the time to the least populous states. There was no way that the least populous states were going to agree to a system where they didn’t have equal footing in some way to the more popolous ones.

          The United States would have been much better off if we followed Hamilton’s idea of ditching the states and replacing them with provinces.

    • Anonymous says:

      To be fair, the filibuster is internal rule that was originally developed because clever bastards discovered a loophole in Robert’s Rules of Order. It’s not enshrined constitutionally.

      And the two-thirds majority to ratify treaties actually makes a lot of sense, in my view. Not necessarily vesting it in the Senate, but treaties are the supreme law of the land; they trump everything but the Constitution, sweeping aside all laws that conflict with them. That level of national commitment, especially as it usually happens in relation to foreign powers, is something it is okay to have a supermajority requirement for.

  6. herr doktor bimler says:

    The ability of the social conservatives … to mobilize opposition to this treaty was genuinely impressive.

    I imagine that there are genuine social conservatives out there — misguided but sincere — and it seems unfair to smear them by associating them with the know-nothings, John-Birch-Society revivalists, modernity-hating home-schoolers and death-panel paranoids, who opposed the treaty for fear that it might encroach on their sacred property rights over their families.

    Surely there is more to “social conservatism” than the Santorum attitude that the role of the government is to protect every blastocyte and embryo and foetus from the mother’s bodily autonomy, until it becomes an infant (at which time it becomes the parents’ property to do with what they want).

    • NonyNony says:

      I imagine that there are genuine social conservatives out there — misguided but sincere

      What do you mean by sincere? You mean that they actually believe the crazy nonsense rather than it just being a way to get votes? Birchers are true believers – they are very sincere in their beliefs. It’s the beliefs that are noxious.

    • witless chum says:

      Socially conservative but not paranoid about the U.N. people certainly exist, but they aren’t going to stop voting Republican over this bit of stupidity because they care more about their deeply held sincere beliefs in hierarchy and enforcing gender roles at the point of a gun.

      It’s pretty natural, also, to explain away the foibles of your allies. They may be black helicopter nutjobs, but at least they aren’t liberals!

  7. Sly says:

    Surely there is more to “social conservatism” than the Santorum attitude that the role of the government is to protect every blastocyte and embryo and foetus from the mother’s bodily autonomy, until it becomes an infant (at which time it becomes the parents’ property to do with what they want).

    It isn’t just misogyny, no. And to the extent that it is, it was only made so due to the demagogic skill of individuals like Paul Weyrich. Most evangelical organizations were either mute on Roe v. Wade, or mildly applauded the decision in 1973. The Southern Baptist Convention, then and now the largest association of evangelicals in the country, actually lobbied for liberalizing abortion laws until the early 80s.

    Modern social conservatism emerged as a political force out of the husk of old social conservatism; the white supremacist brand. It was galvanized by the decision of the IRS in 1975 to deny tax-exempt status to universities, even those with a religious “mission,” that maintained a policy of racial segregation. The first place that got hit was Bob Jones University, and all the fat-faced bigot preachers thought their churches were next. In their infinite wisdom they eventually blamed Jimmy Carter, who wasn’t even President yet when the IRS announced the change.

    After overt racism became problematic, around the time Jerry Falwell took flak (in the form of costing his church over a million dollars in lost donations) for calling Desmond Tutu a phony and encouraging his flock to buy up South African Krugerrands to counteract divestment over apartheid, it was surreptitiously dropped in favor of harping on abortion. After all, no one needs money more than Jesus.

    You can’t have conservatism without a con, and social conservatism is certainly no different.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      Reading Doghouse Riley about the history of abortion in the US had convinced me that the current fetal fetishism is quite radical, and that there is nothing “conservative” about Social Conservatism.

      Confirmation is always welcome.

  8. [...] Robert Farley with a good point: to the extent that the nonsense over the Disabilities Act underscores how pointless it is to work with the GOP-run House on anything, at all, ever, executive power will only expand and entrench: [...]

  9. Lee says:

    Kevin Drum also had a good point, American conservatives feared international treaties since at least Yalta. I think it goes back further than that. Ever since the start of the Republic, conservatives feared foreign influences corrupting American civilization. This line of thought is a very old one.

  10. jon says:

    Despicable as the action is, not approving the disability treaty will have almost no practical impact. It is indicative of the mood of Conressional Republicans in general and bodes poorly for any future hopes for bipartisanship that don’t involve the Democrat’s surrender.

    But let’s not forget that this is not the first treaty that the Senate has not ratified, and it is certainly not the most important. What winds up mattering is how the government behaves in the future, and particularly if the Executive branch acts in accordance with the provisions of the treaty, regardless of ratification status.

  11. Dilan Esper says:

    Note that those conservatives gained that power to stop this treaty by opposing moderate Republicans and thinking past the next election. Something Scott and others here claim they think categorically can never work.

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