Politics Isn’t Rocket Science

Way back in the dark ages, or, as we called them, the ’70’s, I went to college.   Every now and then, the professors would assign us a term paper.  Which meant trudging off to the library to do research.  In the science courses, it meant going over to the walls of shelves which contained Biological Abstracts and Chemical Abstracts.   What were those?  They were volumes which contained a short summary of the articles published in biology or chemistry.  There were anywhere from 1 to several volumes per year.  There was an index volume for each year, that you could use to look up key words, and then you could go to the required page to see if the article in question had what you were looking for.  Lather, rinse, repeat.   Other courses had similar things, but the result was always that you spent a lot of time getting sources for your paper.   I really don’t miss those days at all.  Today, I can do that in a few minutes.  Anyone can, which is why some of the responses to my post about “There Are Rules?” were so irritating.

Seriously, we have a huge amount of information available to us at our figurative fingertips.  A few minutes search on Google, Yahoo, or Bing pulls up lists of places to go for information almost instantly.  There’s Wikipedia, which has a nice search function and links right into articles detailing what you might need to know.    So there’s really no excuse when someone comes in and babbles stuff like this:

 blame him for not even trying. He could have pushed for single-payer healthcare instead of “taking it off the table”; it would have made a great statement in support of the 99%.

or this:

The thesis “he couldn’t do it because he was constrained by the rules” is pure Obama-supporter apologism. He didn’t “do what he promised” because he chose not to.

It demonstrates a lack of intellectual curiosity, and an inability to look things up!  Honestly, it’s all available.  It takes me just a few minutes on the Internet to look up Barack Obama’s 2008 platform.  I can even look up how he’s doing in keeping to that.  Now, as I said, I recognize that there are “rules,” and that there are procedural barriers to stop a President from doing everything he wants to.  How do I know this?  Well, another quick check of the Internet, and I find a nice site which has the U.S. Constitution on it.   Lo and behold, Article 1 has right there:  “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States..”  If you go down to Article 2, you find out that the President can’t legislate.  Funny how that little point got missed.

But, moving on.  Another quick check, and lo, I find that there’s a nice primer on the legislative process.   Why would I care about that?  Well, if I’m interested in politics, I have an agenda, and I want to pass laws to make that agenda happen, I need to know this stuff.   That’s why I read it.   So I find out that it’s not just enough to have a Representative “introduce a bill.”  Any Representative can.  But then it has to make it through committees.  Most bills don’t make it out of them, and the ones that do often don’t make it out unchanged.  Then they have to go to a floor debate, and amendments can be attached to it there, before the vote.   Then you go through that process in the Senate.

Knowing that, you can start to guess why a President didn’t “do everything” you think he promised, or even that he did promise.   But why wouldn’t he “try”?  Well, here’s the thing that’s not in the official rules, but it’s mentioned in any number of movies, television shows, and books.  It’s called “a whip count.”  That is, before you publicly start anything, you broach the subject to the congressional leaders.  They do a head count on your idea.   It’s an opinion poll, really.  They come back and tell you whether it stands a chance or not.   This is nothing complex, people do it all the time.  Just think of how many times you’ve “suggested” something to a group, and the reaction determines whether or not you go on.   That’s what politicians do.   If their original idea isn’t going to be accepted, then they stop, and see what will be acceptable.

That’s what Presidents do as well.  Like or not, a president can’t order Congress -even members of his own party – to “toe the line” on a regular basis.  Seriously.  They don’t answer to him.  So let’s go back to single-payer again.  I’m sure the question was asked.  What was the response back?  “Not going to happen.”  Why?  Think back on the actual debate.  Every Republican was against it.  A significant number of Democrats were against it.  So that means it wouldn’t make it out of committee, or if it did, make it out of the House.  Now, that’s just one half of Congress.  Then there’s the Senate.  Where the opposition was equally intense.  You didn’t have 60 votes to break a filibuster, and really, wouldn’t have had 51 votes to pass it even in “majority rules.”  That’s what the President knew.  What that means is that he’s not going to “try,” because it’s a losing effort right out of the gate, and you don’t waste political capital on it.   It’s a fight you aren’t going to win, so you pick the fights you can.

This isn’t rocket science!  It’s straightforward stuff.  A few minutes research, and the use of some common sense experience.  Even more, if you want to know why he isn’t “doing anything” now, or you’re babbling about how he should somehow “force” Congress to do something, you might want to take a look again at the Constitution and the legislative process.  In doing so, you might want to remember who controls the House:  The opposition party.

“Tolerates fools gladly” is not one of my character traits.   The information is out there, it’s easy to find, and a little thought shouldn’t be that hard.  If you’re coming in here from one of the emoprog/frustrati/fauxgressive sites and spewing the same easily debunked crap that’s “common wisdom” over there,

and don’t expect me to be nice about it.



Filed under Politics

30 responses to “Politics Isn’t Rocket Science

  1. And this equally applies to those idiots on the right as well.

    Love the white kitten’s expression too!

  2. overseasgranny

    This is a keeper…and I also kept both pictures for handy use. Thanks!

  3. Honestly, most of the folks parroting this b.s. have no comprehension of basic civics, and all of the things you have mentioned, Norbrook undermines their “Obama sux” narrative. So they will do what they ALWAYS do, double down on the stoopid.

    Great post anyway!

    • My understanding is that “civics” is no longer really taught in schools. IIRC, it wasn’t even when I was in school, although it was blended in more with the social studies classes.

      That said, if someone is going to claim that they’re “political activists” or “politically aware,” they’d better take the time to make themselves informed of the basic ground rules.

  4. Observerinvancouver

    Oh, hi. I checked that link you have at “There are rules?” Not sure how the BPI squirrel comes into play but that’s beside the point. I further clicked into the Angry Black Lady link about the Examiner article on Pres. Obama’s visits to Mars.


    (Sorry. I don’t know how to do a hyperlink here.)

    Who knew? Thanks so much. 🙂

    Re This post. It’s good to keep reminding people of how their government is supposed to work.

  5. WooHoo! Another great one, Norbrook!

    Being totally ancient, I was required to take a semester of civics which also included state history and constitution before I was allowed to graduate High School and again before I could receive my BA degree.

    I also remember visiting the abstracts and prowling the stacks when in school. It took some time to get the info required. Maybe now it’s just too easy so people don’t bother. Also I think some people would rather remain in ignorance where it is easier to just make things up as they go along.

    ♥ love the kittens!

    • Our “civics” was rolled into what was called “social studies,” which basically covered history, etc. I did take a couple of courses on political science in college, mainly to fill out that liberal arts requirement.

      As I said, I don’t miss those days of digging through volume after volume of abstracts. What you quickly learned was to look for a good review article, and then pull the citation list – thus saving you a good week of searching. 😉 Maybe it’s just me, but in my various careers, I’ve always had to do a lot of “groundwork” in terms of getting familiar with the subjects and principles. So when I started getting more interested in politics, particularly when I decided to blog, I went back and started refreshing myself on the basics. I guess some people think it’s just easier to parrot what you’re told by various “opinion leaders” than to check for yourself. 🙄

      • It was the same for me as well, civics was a part of our social studies class in the 8th grade. I took one political science class – and enjoyed it – in junior college. The most of my “education” in civics though comes from reading books on government and history.

        Now, I must be an odd duck cause I enjoyed time spent in the library doing research and would happily spend all day doing so.

        I do sometimes wonder if technology and the internet have made us less thoughtful by providing larger amounts of information easier causing us to spend less time thoughtfully digesting our research?

        • I so understand enjoying spending time in libraries doing research. I really enjoyed that too but I must confess that I often got pulled off on tangents to something interesting when I was supposed to be focused on a particular goal. However, I never regretted that at all because I always learned something.

          • In some ways, the Internet fits more my style, since I’ve always had a habit of hopping and skipping around subjects. When I’m in a library, I often spent (and still do) more time browsing, and reading books on various subjects that weren’t what I went there for in the first place. 😆

  6. Lancelot Link

    Here is an explanation that even “True Leftists” might be able to understand;

  7. It might as well *be* rocket science for these folks. It’s that difficult for them to grasp.

    • It’s more “don’t want to grasp” than difficult to grasp. It’s a common feature among both extremes – they know what they know, and don’t confuse them with facts! 🙄

  8. Basic government. I remember the old days in the library too. I don’t miss the research part, though.
    When I was in Jr. High (middle school, I think, these days…), we went to what was called Boys’ and Girls’ State in Colorado (separate in those days). We had four days or so, IIRC, and we were a mini government, forming committees, introducing bills, etc. It’s so frustrating when people obviously don’t understand the way it works. Would they rather the president was a dictator? It could backfire on them, if we had a President Cain!

    • They, for whatever reason, think that the president does have some form of “dictatorial powers,” or that the Democrats will automatically do what he tells them to do. 🙄 They have a “pure ideology” which they are convinced is the “true path,” and won’t admit that it won’t – and can’t – “just happen.” They tend to follow people like Greenwald, Hamsher, and Moore, totally ignoring that those same people are more interested in personal gain, along with a lot of wounded ego to go along with it.

      It’s not a case of “never criticize.” Absolutely, you can. I do as well. But I criticize on specific items, that he is responsible for, that I wish he hadn’t done. I don’t attack (which is what they do) because Congress passed (or failed to) a law that wasn’t perfect, or something else happened that he had no control over. That’s just dumb.

  9. Alan Scott


    Doesn’t the President have a lot of real power to wheel and deal, to get his agenda passed ? There was a lot of that getting the stimulus bill through, although the President really did not make proposals and basically allowed Democrats in Congress to fill it up with a lot of wishes . He did make all kinds of back room deals to buy votes for health care .

    I believe you are making excuses . All the players have levers of power they use. Congressmen and Senators have agendas too, and the President has the almighty veto to pressure everyone else on the field .

    • Um, of course he has power to wheel and deal. I will note that it’s false that he did not make proposals on the stimulus. He did indeed. I might also note that it wasn’t just Democrats who were adding things to it, either. Republicans were quite busy doing so, even though they hypocritically voted against it. Then turned around and took credit for projects that were funded by it.

      No, I’m not making excuses. I’m pointing out political reality. No president gets his own way constantly – not even Bush. You might note that one of Bush’s “initiatives” was the privatization of Social Security, which he dropped right after he counted votes in the House and Senate, and realized it wasn’t going to fly.

      You undercut your argument by pointing out that all the players have levers of powers, and that members of Congress have their own agendas. That’s the exact thing I just said in this post. There are limits on how much of anyone’s agenda is going to be enacted, and yes, it depends on how well they use the available levers – but even so, it won’t be exactly what they wanted when it started.

  10. Alan Scott


    But of course it was so much easier for the President to get what he wanted in the two years Democrats overwhelmingly controlled both Houses of Congress. Only in this year does the President have an excuse for failure, and he ain’t shy about using it .

    But back to the first 2 years . The President did not just have the numbers on his side. He came in with a mandate and especially in his first year had the public and press on his side. He walked on water. Republicans did not dare challenge him . Renegade Democrats could be disciplined with a mild rebuke .

    That the President chose to use that window of power for a stimulus that did not fulfill it’s promises and a health care reform that angers both right and left for entirely different reasons, calls into question his political skill.

    Bush’s experience in reforming Social Security is entirely different . Bush did not have the same majorities in Congress to work with. He also was barely the winner of a disputed election and thus could not command the moral authority pre 911 to push through his agenda . President Obama was in a much stronger political position at the beginning of his term than Bush .

    • Now who’s making excuses, Alan? Really, Bush had Republican control of both houses of Congress for 6 years. He had overwhelming popularity after 9/11. Now, using your own arguments, he should have pushed through the privatization of Social Security and Medicare.

      Now, the stimulus did its job in stopping the freefall that the economy was in. That was its purpose. It wasn’t as you seem to be hinting, to turn it around to full employment. The principle argument at the time by some economists (Krugman, for example) was that it should have been bigger. The funny thing about health reform is that it actually doesn’t fully kick in until 2014. Yes, the Left wanted single-payer healthcare. The right wanted to privatize everything, including Medicare. 🙄 Could he have been more out in front on it? Sure, but the reality was that “single payer” was not going to happen, and at the same time, privatization of the entire system wasn’t either. So you end up down the middle.

  11. I like this discussion. Norbrook, you’ve addressed an issue that’s been bugging me mightily for the last two-plus years, and because I had both civics and political science, as well as four years of history, in high school, I have a decent — albeit broad rather than detailed — understanding of How Government Works. It’s enormously complex, endlessly fascinating, and nuanced in all sorts of ways. It ill behooves anyone to try to simplify it just to make a point, because then the point itself is generally contaminated.

    I do so wish that every U.S. citizen had a solid grounding in civics/government/history/political science — it would make our public discourse so much more interesting, engaging, and thoughtful. And certain people would be a lot more likable!

    • My favorite example is from Milt Shook, over at PCTC :that most of the people screaming the loudest are talking chess, when the game is checkers. The person playing the game may not be doing what they think he should, but he does know he’s playing checkers.

      While yes, it can be complex and nuanced, what irritates me the most about both the left and the right extremes is their constantly demonstrating their ignorance of the ground rules.

  12. Alan Scott


    I will have to check on your numbers of Bush’s Congressional majorities, I remember it quite differently. And I believe Bush pushed it pre 911, but I could be wrong . At any rate once it failed Bush had far too many other places to spend his political capital. And with AARP joining Democrats in lying to grandma and grandpa, who by the way are way easy to bamboozle, privatization was dead.

    ” Now, the stimulus did its job in stopping the freefall that the economy was in. That was its purpose. It wasn’t as you seem to be hinting, to turn it around to full employment. ”

    Move the goal posts, I don’t care. It was the Obama Administration that said, if the stimulus was passed unemployment would stay under 8%. That is what I meant by a failure of promises . I never went anywhere near hinting full employment. If I wanted to go near hinting of a failure of full employment, I would bring up Obama’s missing 5 million green jobs, but I am not going to do that .

    ” The funny thing about health reform is that it actually doesn’t fully kick in until 2014. Yes, the Left wanted single-payer healthcare. The right wanted to privatize everything, including Medicare ”

    Back to my favorite subject, health care. The right said that Obama’s numbers for paying for health care were all smoke and mirrors. Every single thing was a blatant lie. I forget which part it was that collected revenues over 7 years, to pay out over 4 years. Maybe it was the CLASS act . I can’t track the many accounting tricks. Anyway even the Obama-ites finally admitted that the CLASS act could not work, no matter how much they stretched, twisted, and tortured it. Without the miracle savings from that, the numbers for Obama-care are even more ludicrous.

    • Well, actually, the right said the costs of the ACA was “smoke and mirrors,” but the Congressional Budget Office said something quite different. In fact, once the majority of the provisions start kicking in, there will be savings.

      Gruber predicts that one in five Minnesotans — about 1 million people — will obtain their health insurance through the insurance exchange by 2016.

      He also says the federal health care law would save Minnesota households on average about $500 per year.

      Gruber projects that almost 300,000 additional Minnesota residents would gain insurance coverage by 2016, and that those who currently buy health insurance on the individual market could pay 20 percent less in premiums after taxes.

      It’s already reducing costs.
      The stimulus was an attempt to reverse the freefall – which was due to Republican policies – and yes, it didn’t achieve its stated goal of reducing unemployment below 8%. However, if it hadn’t been passed, the projected unemployment rate was projected to reach 15-20%. That’s Depression-era unemployment, and that would have been just the official rate. Now, you’re still making excuses for Bush, so let me flip it. Just what do you think President Obama faced? He had just as many irons in the fire, and he had way too many “advocacy groups” – fighting. You’re trying to have your cake and eat it, Alan.

  13. Alan Scott


    I see my memory was wrong and 2005 was when President Bush failed to get private accounts started for younger workers. I will concede your point . You said, ” Now who’s making excuses, Alan? Really, Bush had Republican control of both houses of Congress for 6 years. ” The majority the GOP had in the Senate early on was very slim. Even in 2005 I don’t believe Bush ever had the numbers that Obama had

    Getting back to the CLASS act, HHS finally conceded it could not work. http://www.scribd.com/doc/68798745/Combined-CLASS-Report-10-14-Final

    Obama-care gets savings by squeezing hospitals and doctors . It ain’t gonna work . The doctors will sooner or later refuse to treat certain groups .

    ” The stimulus was an attempt to reverse the freefall – which was due to Republican policies – and yes, it didn’t achieve its stated goal of reducing unemployment below 8%. However, if it hadn’t been passed, the projected unemployment rate was projected to reach 15-20% ”

    Since it’s your site , I will only say that I most humbly disagree. I could argue the causes , but I might let emotions get too heated, so lets just discuss the stimulus, okay ? Now I will give Obama credit for the bailouts. As distasteful as they were, the banks really were too big to fail. However, the stimulus was an absolute joke. The Stimulus to stimulate the ‘ Private Economy ‘ , which the public economy parasitically lives off of, did not go to stimulate the private economy. There were no ‘ shovel ready ‘ projects ready to go that would have hired construction workers and others from the private sector .

    So where, oh where, did all the money go? Why didn’t it stimulate the private sector economy? Because a lot of it went to the states to keep public union dues payers working even while their private sector brothers stayed unemployed. Since the private sector did not recover and begin paying taxes to support the public sector, once the stimulus was exhausted , even public sector workers began getting axed.

    The sheer pork and corruption that Democrats shamelessly sausaged into the stimulus was one of the reasons for their midterm shellacking .

    I know I am long and I apologize , but I have to add this. Obama has done such ill advised things to destroy jobs that it is almost as if he is intentionally trying to be a one term President. Too many to list, except these two. The attack on Boeing building the plant in South Carolina and delaying the permits on the Canadian oil sands pipeline. Killing jobs just to keep his political base happy.