This is why discipline in politics is sometimes necessary


by Sunny
22nd September, 2010 at 11:09 am    

The Senate today blocked the start of debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, with Republicans objecting to a provision that would repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The vote was 56 to 43, with 60 votes needed to break the filibuster. Two Democratic senators, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, both from Arkansas, voted with Republicans to block the bill. — reported by Talking Points Memo.

This is of course intensely annoying to supporters of Obama, but I highlight this to make two points. First, a lot of people criticised Obama for not moving on DADT quickly enough. He had good reason to: the Democrats didn’t have enough votes to pass it. And even now they don’t.

Secondly, and more importantly, it once again highlights why sometimes discipline is useful and important in politics. I bet there are more Democrat senators who did not like the idea of passing DADT. And I bet there were Republicans who wanted to. But the Republicans are extremely disciplined, which means they can block legislation and restrict Obama’s agenda. This also helps them electorally.

Democrats on the other hand are badly disciplined, and because some don’t buy Obama’s progressive agenda, continually shoot the party in the foot by stopping their own legislation.

This is worth noting when people use the voting records on TheyworkForYou.com to make a point about how terrible Labour cabinet ministers or MPs were. Their voting record doesn’t tell you anything other than what the leadership wanted. You might argue of course that these means Labour (or Tory MPs) are spineless. Perhaps. But there clear political advantages too in such a strategy. My only regret is that Barack Obama can’t threaten / whip his Democrat senators harder and get them to stand in line.


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  1. sunny hundal

    Blogged: : This is why discipline in politics is sometimes necessary http://bit.ly/dnWFul


  2. Lauolefiso Stibbie

    Pickled Politics » This is why discipline in politics is sometimes … http://bit.ly/bkTaPh


  3. Simon

    Pickled Politics » This is why discipline in politics is sometimes … http://bit.ly/9dmsB7


  4. sunny hundal

    @morticed @sciamachy @policestateuk @DavidAllenGreen 'why discipline is sometimes necessary' http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/10191


  5. sunny hundal

    @hali__ see these two blog posts: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/10191 and http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/9264




  1. Lucio Buffone — on 22nd September, 2010 at 11:16 am  

    So let’s get this right Sunny, you want stronger control over backbench MPs from the Labour Party leadership??

  2. Richard — on 22nd September, 2010 at 12:25 pm  

    Personally I rather like the idea of backbencers representing their constituents and giving a v-sign to the leadership.

  3. soru — on 22nd September, 2010 at 1:52 pm  

    Surely the problem here is the american constitution? As currently interpreted, it requires a 60% majority to make certain types of changes (e.g. let gays serve openly in the military) and an equally overwhelming majority to block certain other changes (e.g. starting a war).

    Makes you wonder why they bother having elections.

  4. Jemmy Hope — on 22nd September, 2010 at 2:35 pm  

    Surely backbenchers represent the people who slip them brown envelopes, not their constituents.
    “An honest politician is one who, when bought, stays bought.” (Simon Cameron, no relation)

  5. Sunny — on 22nd September, 2010 at 3:34 pm  

    So let’s get this right Sunny, you want stronger control over backbench MPs from the Labour Party leadership??

    I’m saying this is sometimes necessary to pass legislation.

    I think the UK doesn’t need this as much – but I wish Obama could control his senators more.

  6. Katy Newton — on 22nd September, 2010 at 3:57 pm  

    I think a vote like this would have been a free vote here anyway – “matters of conscience” are not usually subject to the party whip. It’s a big disappointment to anyone who believes that gay military personnel deserve equality at work, regardless of whether they are Obama supporters or not.

  7. douglas clark — on 22nd September, 2010 at 4:25 pm  

    I do not agree with most US interventions on this planet, but it seems strange to me that they have such a surplus of bravery, that they can reject candidates on the basis of their sexuality.

  8. Shatterface — on 22nd September, 2010 at 11:04 pm  

    The Democrats don’t need more discipline – the Republicans need less. What is it with Labour and control freakery?

    This is an arms race between centralising cliques within both parties. Its bad for both parties and flies in the face of their founding ideologies: the Democrats should be too liberal to take part in it, the Republicans should resists centralisation on principle.

  9. Arif — on 23rd September, 2010 at 8:53 am  

    Shatterface makes a good point.

    It would be amusing for the Democrats to make a narrative about the Leninism of the Republican Party in comparions to the freedom of conscience embodied in the Democratic Party’s structures.

    I’d call it freedom rather than indiscipline among the Democrats.

    I’d call it cowardice and central control rather than discipline among the Republicans.

    I’m sure the truth is much more complicated, but if you just want political advantage this seems a slightly healthier way of getting it than by the Democrats emulating the Republicans.

  10. Andy Gilmour — on 23rd September, 2010 at 2:03 pm  

    Agree strongly with #8 & #9.

    Also, isn’t this “discipline defeats conscience” sort of outcome an inevitable result of political systems which tend to result in monolithic parties?

    The diversity of opinion within UK & US political parties is immense, but the relative barriers to entry are such that fragmenting into a greater number of more representative organisations risks political oblivion.

  11. Phil Hunt — on 23rd September, 2010 at 5:50 pm  

    I do definitely agree with this stance. What is even more interesting is that more and more people seem to vote purely on their political lines as opposed to how they feel. This could definitely be interesting come election time.

  12. ukliberty — on 26th September, 2010 at 6:47 pm  

    This is worth noting when people use the voting records on TheyworkForYou.com to make a point about how terrible Labour cabinet ministers or MPs were. Their voting record doesn’t tell you anything other than what the leadership wanted. You might argue of course that these means Labour (or Tory MPs) are spineless. Perhaps. But there clear political advantages too in such a strategy.

    Of course there are clear political advantages to a party leadership in having mindless drones instead of free-thinkers.

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