Unlike the days of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where the filibuster was once a tool of the minority in the Senate to prevent a Tyranny of the Majority, today the role of the filibuster has been flipped on its head and become a tool for imposing a Tyranny of the Minority.
The time has come to end the fillibuster. Or, short of that, turn it back into what it was always intended to be: a demonstration of the committed to the righteousness of their postion by a display of guts, will power and stamina.
Like so many in our system, I grew up inspired by stories like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," where in the end the little guy - who has Right on his side - stands up to corruption and power, and prevails, in spite of all the odds against him.
In that tale, the fillibuster is a savior of the minority, the one tool provided in our Democratic form of government to ensure that the outnumbered don't get steamrolled. If you had courage, and stamina, and pluck, you could stand up and talk until the other side gave in. Images of cots on the floor, reading from the phonebook, tired but righteous members near collapse striding forward nevertheless...... this is the essential stuff of American Myth.
Maybe, maybe, once upon a time, that is the way it actually used to work. But, not today. Today, the fillibuster is a cheap political trick, a perversion of honest government. There's no courage in it, no stamina, no pluck, no effort. It's a procedural check box, a wrench in the gears. Today, the minority don't have to bring in the cots or the phonebook, no drinking gallons of coffee to stay on message, no digging down deep in the gut to actually stand - literally - for something.
Today, the fillibuster is anything but a last-ditch tool of the Democratic process, available to a beleagured minority to oppose the Tyranny of The Majority. It's now become an automatic, knee-jerk, button to be pressed in every legislative situation, flipping the very point of it on its head.
Today, the fillibuster has become not a defense against legislative abuse, but a legislative abuse in and of itself. Today, the fillibuster has become not a defender of rights, but an abuser of them. Today, the minority simply have to say "I'll fillibuster" and all legislative activity grinds to a halt. It has become the vehicle for instituting a Tyranny of the Minority.
In this regard, the fillibuster has lost its value as a means of ensuring the Democratic process and has become a means of perverting it.
As such, it should be abolished outright, or it should revert to what it was origionally intended to be: a last-ditch means of guarding the rights of the minority by a show of guts, fortitude, and will. If Coburn, or McConnell, or yes, Joe Lieberman, actually had to stand up and read the phonebook to put their health care demands into action, there would be some genuine commitment shown to the American people of the value in their position.
But no, Senators like Joe Lieberman simply have to go on TV and say "I'll fillibuster" and the legislative process comes to a halt. Between putting sugar in his coffee and reaching for the stir spoon, a guy like Joe Lieberman can spit on the will - nay, the critical need - of the American people.
When the perversion of Democracy becomes this easy, it's time for the fillibuster to go.