The Notional Filibuster

My favorite headline from yesterday was: “Scott Brown Wins Mass. Race, Giving GOP 41-59 Majority in the Senate.”

I hate the notional filibuster.

The filibuster is not part of the Constitution. It’s a sneaky part of the parliamentary ruleset of the Senate originally argued against by, of all people, Aaron Burr*. It showed up in 1806 as a sort of nebulous theoretical threat and then sprang into being, first in 1837, and then in full force by Henry Clay** in the argument over the Second Bank of the United States*** but he was forced to sit down and shut up so all was well. It was sort of a threat to kill off debate that was rarely enacted because it made the enactor look like a petulant child. And so until Woodrow Wilson the filibuster was a rule that people thought very hard about and never used.

Then during Wilson we added cloture votes to end a filibuster because otherwise if one actually started it would drag on for weeks. And cloture was sort of stupid, but it allowed limiting the filibuster unless people wanted to filibuster — which, during the Civil Rights Movement, they rather did. But even then, old white men had to stand up before the Senate and read out of the phone book for hours on end and press for a cloture vote of 3/5ths of the Senate to move on to voting. Everything came to a halt. It was fun!

Now we have this ridiculousness where old white men don’t even have read out of the phone book. No long nights of standing there being stupid, no spectacles on TV, no anything. The opposition party can just yell “filibuster!” on literally anything and everything and it doesn’t hold up the business of the Senate. It randomly kills off whatever the business on the table was — and it makes no difference what the business was. Now we all hold hands and pretend someone is reading out of the phone book while everyone goes to lunch.

I am all for the filibuster in theory. If someone, personally, desperately wants to stop a bill and go down in history as a big Hater like Strom Thurmond vs. Civil Rights, then they should be allowed. I will stand aside and Vanna White for them. I am all for people making a big, stupid spectacle of themselves. But this nonsense has no consequence and no accountability. A Minority Party can back door their way around the Constitution and block all forward movement on legislation — and in the Great Law of Unintended Consequences, this means both parties can pull this trick, forever, unless they hold a Supermajority which is, indeed, quite rare. The minority of the country can hold the majority of the country hostage nullifying the meaning of elections and taking away the Will of the People.

This has got to stop. It is killing US Democracy. Elections have consequences and the consequence should not be “nyahh.”

It matters little if you are left or right or up or down, if you’re fascist or commie. Your will, your tribe, will now forever be thwarted by the other guy who will sit in the corner, pout, and say ‘Don’t wanna’ until they get what they want which will, of course, be nothing. There’s a reason why the US system is a Winner Take All system. Cobbling together the will of a majority if the different cliques and groups and viewpoints is hard. And once you get there, with a sustainable majority, then you are representing millions of people who live in millions of niches but enough of them have gotten together to agree on a set of things and there’s the dudes, theoretically representing that opinion. A collection of those who do not agree with the rest of the program can now hold the country hostage in perpetuity. There is no escape.

And the hard-core Fox News watching GOP who are cheering this on? It will be swapped soon enough and then the Democrats will sit in the corner and cross their arms and go ‘Don’t wanna’ and oh there shall be upon the land the Whining.

Also, meanwhile, in lieu of the new SCOTUS announcement where corporations can dump unlimited cash into campaigns, Goldman Sachs has announced its bid for the Presidency. Why bother with the middleman?

* That right there is something to recommend either for the filibuster or against it, depending on how you feel about Aaron Burr.

** And now you have to ask yourself how you feel about Henry Clay.  Henry Clay was a punk.

*** Ha ha ha. Filibusters. Over big banks killing economy, driving huge unemployment and taking huge bonuses. Ha ha ha. Mrfl. Sniff. My heart, it gladdens.  It’s like nothing changes.