I’m not sure how I ended up reading this rather confused CNN editorial by a Republican insider named John Feehery, but man am I annoyed. The subject is Senator-Elect (that feels REALLY good to type) Al Franken:
The metric system is the kind of thing that you can expect from the 60-vote filibuster-proof majority Democrats now have in the United States Senate.
After the Watergate scandal in 1974, Democrats trounced Republicans in the mid-term elections, getting 61 seats in the Senate and 291 in the House.
In the Senate, they adjusted the rules to make it harder for Republicans to filibuster (reducing the magic number from 67 to 60 to invoke cloture, which ends debate). In the House, they passed all kinds of reforms to take power away from senior members and give it to junior members. And Congress mandated that the American people embrace the metric system.
The most obvious problem with that opening is that it is designed to get us all scared about what the 60 Democratic votes (even though there aren’t 60 Democrats) in the Senate are going to do to us now. Nevertheless, that whole mandating “the American people to embrace the metric system” thing didn’t work out very well, did it? So why exactly should we be scared?
More importantly, I’m incredibly annoyed by this kind of head-in-the-sand attitude. Regular readers (all 3 of you) know that I just spent a month in Australia. During that time, my wife and I were practically helpless in the grocery store or the fish market because we had no idea how much a kilogram was. The same thing would have happened had we bothered to rent a car. I’ve been abroad enough so that I have a pretty good feel for a kilometer, but on every other weight and measure I am completely helpless.
I want to blame the Ford Administration for not getting behind a good idea, but according to Feehery:
In 1975, the newly dominant Democratic Congress sent President Gerald Ford a bill that declared that America was going to be metric, which he signed.
So what happened? Who blinked? Or is Feehery just making stuff up to smear Democrats with being behind something that feels “foreign?”
In any event, I’ll blame Feehery for being so insular that he doesn’t care how the rest of the world functions. We use English measures. They changed over. The Australians changed over. Can anybody give me a good explanation of why we didn’t that doesn’t boil down to, “We’re the greatest country on Earth so why should we?”