Somebody once said you can no more shame a United States senator than you can a sofa. That might not be universally true. But most Americans have seen things to give the theory great merit.
Now come stories from the past week about how police reforms have stalled in Washington. And not because the police unions have picketed the capital. Or because Blue Lives Matter began intense lobbying. But because one side admitted to making the perfect the enemy of the good.
Democrats in the U.S. Senate--or most of them, anyway--blocked a bill aimed at overhauling policing practices across the land. It was a shameful spectacle. But shame, sofas, etc.
The bill by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) needed that famous 60 votes to move forward, but only got 55. Perhaps some of our senators felt they needed this issue come the fall election more than Americans need real change in police precincts. As somebody said a few weeks ago, cynics aren't always wrong.
"The Republican majority proposed the legistative equivalent of a fig leaf--something that provides a little cover but no real change," said Charles Schumer, the now and future minority leader in the Senate. "The harsh fact of the matter is, the bill is so fundamentally and irrevocably flawed, it cannot serve as a useful starting point for meaningful reform."
It can't even serve as a starting point. Which goes to show just how much effort Sen. Schumer wants to put into the proposal.
According to the news accounts--not opinion pieces, but front-page news articles--the GOP plan incorporated several ideas from the party across the aisle. Including adding to the hate crimes law and creating a national policing commission to review the nation's system of justice.
The bill also took the often-used federal method to move states in a preferred direction: by withholding money as a stick, or using more money as a carrot. It's almost tradition in Washington to use (federal) money this way. Why do you think nearly every school in America follows nutrional guidelines from the USDA?
The bill would have withheld money for agencies that didn't "proactively bar the practice of chokeholds," according to the AP. It would have also withheld money for those locales that didn't report "no-knock" warrants. Democrats wanted these things banned, completely, which might have made the bill even harder to pass. That is, harder to pass legislatively and constitutionally. (The 10th Amendment still exists.)
There is also the sticky question of qualified immunity for cops. Democrats want to get rid of the thing, making it easier for police to be sued for misconduct. But even if the Republicans would have caved on that issue, the thing becomes even stickier with all the contracts in place in all the local and state agencies across the land. That issue is going to take years to unspool and make orderly and uniform.
But the other stuff is what the PR types call low-hanging fruit. Those issues could have been much easier. And the bill could have done much good. Even if it wasn't perfect from one side's point of view.
Instead, We the People get nothing.
Once again, many of the behind-the-scenes details came from our news story, not opinion pieces. Such as: Republicans assured Democrats "repeatedly" that amendments could have been added on the Senate floor during debate.
"The Democrats turned down that offer, according to two GOP officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss procedural deliberations, and also rejected a subsequent offer of more amendment votes."
Sen. Scott "privately told Democrats that if they did not get votes on amendments they sought, that he, too, would help them filibuster his own bill before it proceeded to a final vote ... ." The Democrats didn't take the offer.
Very little in a democracy is all or nothing. Most times there are three choices: 1. All. 2. Some. 3. Nothing.
You see where reform stands now.