Tuesday, 10 November 2009


Heresthetics is to politics as entrepreneurship is to markets. William Riker coined the term. In his wonderful short book, The Art of Political Manipulation, he notes the DePew amendment. In 1902, Chauncey DePew proved his heresthetical skills by killing the seventeenth amendment. Sufficient support existed for the passing of a constitutional amendment providing for the direct election of senators (who were otherwise selected by state legislatures); DePew didn't want that change. He recognized, however, that majority support existed for an amendment to the amendment that bundled direct election of senators with federal enforcement of voting rights, and that such an amended motion could never be supported by the southern states who otherwise would support the direct election of senators. It's the classic killer amendment.

Today I read David Frum on the Stupak Amendment, which forbids abortion coverage by Health Exchanges under Obamacare. I have little handle on the importance of Health Exchanges in the overall scheme of things, but I wonder if I'm seeing shades of DePew. Kos notes a good chunk of House Democrats have pledged to oppose any bill containing the Stupak amendment. Where DePew specifically intended to kill the amendment, though, Stupak's a Democrat from Michigan; seems unlikely he'd be intending this as a killer amendment. Hmm.

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