Doing the Math 

We have reached a funny pass indeed in the development of the Republic when a headline like the following can appear on a conservative blog: "Reid: Dems will use 50-vote tactic to finish health care in 60 days."

In other words, a political party's use of its constitutionally elected majority (actually, the incriminating headline should refer to 51 votes, which in the U.S. Senate would constitute a majority) is a "tactic," something nefarious, unfair, devious, and bullying.

Really? How, when majority rule is the very essence of a democratic form of government? How, when Republicans relied on it numerous times during the administration of George W. Bush to pass legislation (notably, the former president's ever-escalating tax cuts for the wealthy)? Why is it suddenly something wicked when the Democrats of the Senate could rely on their majority (currently 59-41) to pass long overdue health-care legislation?

When Republican Scott Brown won his upset election to the Senate from Massachusetts, the GOP made a big deal of calling him "Number 41" — i.e., the 41st and presumably clinching vote against health-care legislation. Since when is 41 a larger number than 59? Or 51, for that matter, which is all the Democratic proponents of health care need to pass their bill, even one with a public option built into it, if they so choose.

To be sure, cloture on debate requires 60 votes in the Senate. But the Senate voted cloture on health-care legislation many weeks ago. The process has moved to the reconciliation stage, when, after a House-Senate conference, a simple majority in both chambers is enough to pass any piece of legislation.

So what is all the hand-wringing in certain Democratic circles about? Democratic majority leader Harry Reid is right, so long as he holds to his guns. A simple majority is all that is needed. The Democrats have already won, if they would only realize it. All that is necessary is to do the math.

Playing Our Song

Responding Tuesday to Forbes magazine's recent lumping of Memphis in with a handful of other "miserable" places, Mayor A C Wharton pointed out to downtown Rotarians one of the corollaries of existence: If you don't define yourself, others will.

"We need our own story," the mayor said. If you don't tell one yourself, then "someone else will write your song. Someone else will write your story."

And he proceeded to quote sages ranging from George Jones to Aretha Franklin on the point. So far so good. What then should be the story? Just what is our song?

The mayor was candid: Hard times just now will prevent the city from doing all it wants to do and needs to do to redefine itself. But after ticking off a number of Memphis' built-in advantages, ranging from its riverfront to the natural trails one can find everywhere in the city and its surroundings, he declared it the mission of his mayoralty to find that song and write it in deeds.

One note in particular resounded well. Asked about the "pile of dirt" that is Beale Street Landing so far, Wharton promised not to leave it that way but to round it out, quickly, at some stage far less grandiose than its original plans called for.

Just now, that kind of pragmatism is pretty music.

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