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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.

Originally posted to achilles on Tue Dec 15, 2009 at 09:49 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The motion got 19 votes last time. (0+ / 0-)

    It's not going to get the 67 votes needed to change Senate rules.  No way, no how.

    Warner 2016! (Premature? Naaah!)

    by elchip on Tue Dec 15, 2009 at 09:52:52 AM PST

    •  Reid has to grow a pair first (0+ / 0-)

      But he could have Biden rule from the chair that Cloture requiring more votes than a simple majority is inconsistent with the senate's constitutional mandate.

      I'm not worried about government bureaucrats between me and my doctor; I'm worried about insurance bureaucrats between me and my Senator.

      by PsychicToaster on Tue Dec 15, 2009 at 10:02:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It will be gone within a decade or two (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The only question is whether we do it to pass an agenda that had an overwhelming mandate in 2008, or wait for Republicans to do it to pass a bunch of garbage with no mandate (outside of plutocrats and theocrats) at some future time tbd.

    There is no planet B

    by Minerva on Tue Dec 15, 2009 at 09:53:45 AM PST

  •  Had we advocated for that when in the minority... (0+ / 0-)

    It might be possible. The Democrats ditching it now would look like a power grab, plain and simple.  No matter how much you or I know about the ignorant obstruction the Party of No is pushing, it'd be easy for them to win the election next year simply by saying the Democrats handle Congress tyrannically

  •  Sen. Harkin may try to end the fillibuster (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  The problem is not the filibuster. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The problem is politicians who get voted into congress through the hard work and sacrifice of the people, then when they get to congress, they vote against the will of the hard-working and ever sacrificing people who put them there in the first place.

    We can only fix this problem through campaign finance reform so they are not beholden to corporations and their lobbyists but beholden to "We the People." We need to elect politicians who are not driven by political or religious ideology. Politicians who are open, honest and self-sacrificing - willing to debate the issues and support policies and ideas that advance society as a whole.

    •  No, it's the filibuster. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It empowers the minority who want to vote against the will of the majority, for whatever reason.  It empowers the Liebermans at the expense of....well, whatever senators haven't made asses of themselves today.

      Subsidies without cost controls, regulatory reform means that citizens get a little more awful insurance at a huge cost to taxpayers. Like Part D but worse.

      by Inland on Tue Dec 15, 2009 at 10:09:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Politicians not driven by political ideology? (0+ / 0-)

      Umm, while we're at it why not just ban political parties? So divisive, and all that.

      Look, our current crop of politicians may not be doing it for you, but they were elected and generally continue to get re-elected because they say and believe that they are in fact favoring the "will of the people," at least the voters that elected them. Which is kind of their job, and the whole point of a representative democracy.

      There is no "we the people," at least not as you seem to mean it. There are 300 million or so people in this country, with wildly differing views on what is in the best interest of "the people." The fact that we have 2 major and several minor political parties should be enough to disabuse you of the notion that there is some monolithic "we the people" that all basically agree on what needs to be done and how to do it, if only those darn "special interests" would get out of the way.

      We're all "special interests." Union, management, stockholder, landowner, environmentalist, gun-owner, anti-gun activist, gay rights, traditional values, etc. And to borrow from Dash, when we're all special interests, nobody's a special interest.

      Sean Parnell
      Center for Competitive Politics

      Congress shall make no law...

      by Sean Parnell on Tue Dec 15, 2009 at 01:05:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Goodness No! (0+ / 0-)

    There will come a time when the GOP is voted control of Congress and the White House, and you will want that filibuster in place.  Remember when they tried to privatize Social Security?  Well, if there's no filibuster, they will abolish it, and Medicare, and Medicaid, and public education, and welfare, and unemployment assistance, and the departments of Education, Energy, Transportation, HHS, Interior, and maybe Justice.

    And the judiciary.

  •  I was wishing the GOP would end it (0+ / 0-)

    but instead, dems caved and they never really felt the sting.

    Subsidies without cost controls, regulatory reform means that citizens get a little more awful insurance at a huge cost to taxpayers. Like Part D but worse.

    by Inland on Tue Dec 15, 2009 at 10:08:33 AM PST

  •  If You End Rather Than Fix It, Next Time 51 Repbs (0+ / 0-)

    are in power they'll send back to the 11th century.

    Maybe the margin needs to drop again.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Dec 15, 2009 at 10:24:29 AM PST

  •  This is sooo right (0+ / 0-)

    Achilles, you explained the situation so well.  The Senate needs to follow the rules and let people actually filibuster for real!  After awhile, people will get tired of speaking and standing and then the Senate will probably pass the bill.  That's how it usually worked in the past.  From the 1700s until the late 20th century the filibuster was rarely used.  The filibuster was only used 12 times in the entire 19th century.  The filibuster is there to allow unlimited debate.  It's for a senator to be able to voice his opinion about a piece of legislation.  A filibuster is not meant to block every piece of legislation in the Senate.  A filibuster without a speech isn't a filibuster.  It's just some cheap parliamentary trick to block legislation. It's an abuse of Senate Rules.  So let the Senator get on the floor and voice his outrage for several hours or days...eventually he will grow tired and the senate can then get on with business.    

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