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View Diary: Abolish the Filibuster? Be Honest (74 comments)

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  •  Small vs. Large states. (0+ / 0-)

    I suppose it depends upon how we choose to define "undemocratic".  I meant in regard to the population at large, not in regard to the number of Senators.

    That is, if we got rid of the filibuster then Rhode Island and California would have the opportunity to vote without being blocked by Wyoming, which I guess is more democratic.  But we would still have California having the same number of votes as Wyoming.

    But that's the idea.  The Senate was designed to be inherently undemocratic.  Because of that, it will always be possible for a minority of citizens to block legislation by controlling a majority of Senators.  So when we argue about the "undemocratic" nature of the filibuster, we are really arguing about just how undemocratic the Senate should be.

    Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

    by zephron on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 04:12:35 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  OK (0+ / 0-)

      I don't think that's particularly undemocratic, though.

      The Senate, as comprised by its membership, votes on issues, and the majority wins the day.

      That's democratic.

      What's undemocratic is saying that the majority doesn't win the day.

      The House isn't "democratic" by the population definition, either, since the constituencies are never really of exactly the same size, and small states still get represented even when their total population wouldn't otherwise warrant it.

      •  Like I said, (0+ / 0-)

        it depends upon which constituency you use to define "democratic".  I think we would all agree that the natural constituency to use would be the citizenry.

        And you are, of course, exactly right that the House isn't "democratic" either, but I think we agree that it is much more "democratic" than the Senate.

        Again, it's all about how undemocratic we want those institutions to be.

        Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

        by zephron on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:01:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well... (0+ / 0-)

          since the issue is the rules of the Senate, I don't think the citizenry makes any particular sense as the natural constituency.

          They can be as "undemocratic" as they like with regards to the size of their constituency. That particular measure of "undemocratic-ness" was obviously part of the design.

          The part we're talking about, though, wasn't.

          •  Well, let's put it this way, (0+ / 0-)

            what is the natural definition of "democratic" and why should we strive towards institutions which embody it?

            That is, why, aside from the fact that it is stymieing Democratic initiatives, should we consider eliminating the filibuster?  If that is the sole reason, purely politics, then that's fine as far as it goes, but appeals to "democracy" as some inherent good ring hollow.

            Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

            by zephron on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:30:56 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No, let's put it THIS way: (0+ / 0-)

              Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings

              --Art. I, Sec. 5.

              If you can show me the supermajority requirement in that, you've got a case.

              •  What case have I tried to make? (0+ / 0-)

                You are, of course, absolutely correct.  And the Senate, should it choose, could require unanimous consent on all bills.  Just as it could assign fractional votes based upon population (which would arguably be most democratic).

                BUT, once it makes the rules, it is then bound to follow them.  And, in fact, isn't Art. I, Sec. 5. then constraining?  There is no external appeal; once the rules are made, thems are the rules.  So, since the filibuster is part of the "rules", it has the full force of the Constitution presently behind it, until such time as the Senate can change the rules according to the rules.  And since those rules give the Senate parliamentarian some power, it is possible to do this in a controversial and overtly political manner.

                Now, the question is, since you've established that it is permissible, what should they be changed to?  Wouldn't allowing filibusters but limiting the filibustering parties ability to pretend that they aren't filibustering be a politically more astute move?  Then it's all about "transparency" and "honesty" and "Mr. Smith" and not about "Democrats Grab Power!".  Of course, that won't stop many from saying the latter, but the former also has the virtue that virtuous filibusters (i.e., ours) can still be made.

                Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

                by zephron on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 08:12:48 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  No power in the parliamentarian. (0+ / 0-)

                  That's just wrong.

                  Nor is it even really true that anyone's bound to follow the rules, precisely because there is no external appeal.

                  But no, the question hasn't changed here at all. It's still "So what is it, exactly, about the nature of the Senate that makes us say it's undemocratic?"

                  A majority can set the rules. A majority can change the rules. A majority can even decide to ignore the rules. We still haven't had an answer about what's undemocratic about that. So there's no point in moving on to the question of what the rules should be changed to, since we haven't answered the first one.

                  That was the case you were trying to make. That the Senate was undemocratic.

                  So far, we have the bit about the constituencies being divided up by states and not population. But since the topic is the rules, we're still searching for what it is about those rules that's "by its very nature... undemocratic."

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