Senatorial Calvinball

Senate Rules? They're All Just Calvinball

Anyone who has ever spoken to me knows that I'm a closet Boomer. Or, even, not that closeted of one, given I'm currently listening to Frank Sinatra as I write this, but I digress. One of the tenets of my Boomerism is the fact that I have read every single comic strip of Calvin And Hobbes, a comic strip that stopped going to print just over a year before I was born. It's a brilliant comic, but the lasting legacy of it, for me, was always Calvinball.

The premise of Calvinball - returned to again and again - is that Calvinball is whatever Calvin and Hobbes wanted it to be. It could never be the same thing, because then you weren't playing Calvinball. The rules, such as they were, were just nonsense, and whatever got the best gag won. What's Calvinball? It's, like, a state of being, brah. It is whatever you want it to be.

There was never an unfunny Calvinball gag, because for there to be one would require the game to be stale - which, by the very nature of Calvinball, it could never be. It was insanity, and whatever the different form of insanity, it was consistent in its inconsistent, inconsistent in style but always so damn funny.

It's also a perfect metaphor for the United States Senate.

How many votes do you need to pass something in the Senate? It's a harder question than it should be, because it's a stupid fucking set of rules. You need 60 votes to pass laws, except financial laws, which *can* only need 51 votes if you use a very strict set of rules that restricts how much you can do with 51 votes. But, of course, you could change those rules with 51 votes, if you wanted to. You used to need 60 votes for some judges, then Harry Reid said fuck that. Then Mitch McConnell changed the rules so Cabinet members only needed 51 votes, and then did the exact same for Supreme Court Justices too. There were some home state privileges extended to Senators about some judicial appointments until the GOP stopped caring about that, and if you made it to the end of this paragraph knowing your ass from a hole in the ground I'm proud of you. Am I even sure I got all of that correct? Not really. Does it really matter? Also not really.

Would the Senate make any less sense if the filibuster applied on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but not on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Would the world's greatest deliberative body actually function any less stupidly if the rules were comically stupid, as opposed to pretentiously stupid? Of course it wouldn't.

For all the talk so many institutionalists will throw at this, the US Senate is just Calvinball - no game is like any other game, and no game will ever be like any past game. It is whatever you want it to be, because it all so fucking stupid. Democrats might, if they're lucky, take over their committee chairmanships on February 2nd, despite the fact that that will be Day 14 of Chuck Schumer, majority leader, because the US is fucking insane. You have serious reporters saying that the Filibuster is good because it stops a wild swing every time the US changes government, as if that isn't how every other fucking country works. Why is any of this the way that it is? Because some old white people decided it years ago, and everyone is acting like these are fucking preordained. It's all just Calvinball.

A story came out Monday that using reconciliation for the Biden COVID relief plan would result in automatic Medicare cuts (again, what a country) that would need 60 votes to reverse, and so some people freaked out. Then, some people realized that if you just throw on a tax rise at the end of the 10 year time frame, you can get around it, which is what the GOP did to pass their tax cut in 2017. Again, how is this not Calvinball? How have we all just accepted that in order to pass stimulus and unemployment in a pandemic, automatic cuts to Medicare would happen, and that the get around to this is a fake tax rise 10 years from now? Because it's all Calvinball.

There's no universe in which any of this makes any sense, but that's the point of Calvinball - you don't have to win by the rules, you just need to beat your opponent at fucking with the rules. If nothing is actually solid, then all of this is, well, whatever it needs to be. To quote Matthew McConaughey from the Wolf Of Wall Street, "Fugayzi, fugazi. It's a whazy. It's a woozie. It's fairy dust. It doesn't exist. It's never landed. It is no matter. It's not on the elemental chart. It's not fucking real." It's Calvinball.

Calvin generally loses at Calvinball, because he doesn't drive the agenda. He thinks he needs to play the game they're playing better than Hobbes, but he actually just needs to fuck with Hobbes more. Victory isn't actually victory, because he's playing the game wrong. You want DC to be a state? Pass a rule that says statehood votes are exempt from the Filibuster. Fuck it if the GOP have a meltdown, because by the time they do, you'll have two more Senators. If you need to literally name every building in West Virginia  "Joe Manchin Saved The Filibuster" to get him to vote for a bill that is the de facto, but not de jure death of the Filibuster, fucking do it. All of this is nothingness, all of it is Calvinball.

The US just almost re-elected a President about as competent as Calvin, because nothing mattered. None of it. Stormy Daniels didn't matter, the rapes didn't matter, Ukraine didn't matter, none of it mattered. None of it mattered, because it's all fucking Calvinball. Just do the thing you want to do, and figure out everything else afterwards. Who cares if it makes any sense? It's only Calvinball.