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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Filibuster Nostalgia

As my last post indicated, I made my peace with the reality of a filibuster against Samuel Alito pretty quickly. After all, I am really unhappy about the impending reality of Justice Alito, and the likelihood that he will be cheerfully unravelling constitutional protections until well past the time when I’ve been trundled off to a nursing home.And though I doubted and still doubt the political wisdom of a suicide filibuster effort against him, once the genie was out of the bottle yesterday, I figured: What the hell–it should produce some serious political entertainment and some new pressure on waverers. And who knows: maybe a significant number of Americans will get bored with Big East basketball or bass tournaments tomorrow, channel surf to CSPAN, and experience judicial satori.So you can imagine my chagrin when I discovered this afternoon that after a few brief speeches, Senate Dems had agreed to adjourn the chamber until Monday, when a cloture vote is scheduled.On reflection, I realized that the lore of filibusters–the round the clock sessions, the cots in the hallways, the boxes of complimentary No Doz on every desk, and the orgy of unbuttoned speechifying–was associated with efforts to break a filibuster in the absence of enough votes to invoke cloture. In this case, the cloture motion had already been filed, and the votes to carry it were clearly there, so I can understand on a rational level why we aren’t being treated to the spectacle of an oratorical Alitofest.But still, it’s disappointing to realize that the big lurch towards the fateful decision to “filibuster Alito” actually just means a number of Democrats have pledged to vote against cloture on Monday.Maybe Dems are planning some serious rhetorical pyrotechnics then, even though Bobby Byrd is on the other side of the issue. And maybe the six gazillion calls Senators will get over the weekend will have some impact.Yet it makes me nostalgic for the days when announcing a filibuster meant the Senate was about to invert its staid and bipartisan image and go nuts, and the outcome depended on whether some septuagenarian could succesfully hold the floor when a Call of Nature threatened to overwhelm the Call to Service.

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