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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Kilgore: Nostalgic Critics of Filibuster Tweak Have It Backwards

From TDS managing editor Ed Kilgore’s Washington Monthly post, “False Idols of the Senate“:

As predicted, prophecies of “buyer’s remorse” over Senate Democrats’ invocation of the “nuclear option” are flying around promiscuously, as though it did not occur to Harry Reid and company that the filibuster won’t be available to future Democratic minorities (it wouldn’t have been in any event). After that meme wears itself out, we’ll start hearing the Old Wise Heads of Washington lament the passing of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, where Ds and Rs used to get drunk and play golf together, etc., etc.
…As a former Senate employee, I may have less patience than most towards that chamber’s hoary self-congratulatory lore. But the argument that the proper functioning of the Senate depends on the power to obstruct has it all backwards. Compromise is not a virtue in itself; it can produce bad as well as good legislation, and has the potential of generating confused and self-contradictory and even corrupt legislation. There is nothing in the Senate rules that keeps Lamar Alexander or Susan Collins from influencing the majority or forming coalitions with moderate Democrats, and absolutely nothing in the Constitution that keeps House and Senate members from cooperating with each other, within or across party lines…

In an earlier post, “No Buyer’s Remorse Here on the Filibuster,” Kilgore added,

…it was a foregone conclusion that Republicans would “go nuclear”–certainly over judges, and maybe over everything–if and when they were back in power. I mean, seriously, does anyone think that after forty years of promises to the Christian Right the GOP is going to be able to deny its “base” the fifth sure Supreme Court vote (perhaps) necessary to overturn Roe v. Wade? Over a Senate rule? No way. The judicial filibuster power was doomed anyway, and all it served to do at present was as a temporary instrument for GOP power that would be exercised by any means available.
Beyond that, I have to say I prefer bad government to dysfunctional government. Perhaps without the fallback measure of the filibuster, the shape of the Supreme Court and of constitutional protections can become an open instead of a submerged issue in Senate and presidential elections. And if the nuclear option is eventually extended to legislative filibusters, perhaps we’ll obtain more coherent policies, and more accountable government, regardless of who wins elections…The recent frequency of filibusters was making a mockery of democracy. It had to end

After The Village pundits are done with the hand-wringing, the senate will continue much as before, only with a little more grumbling from obstructionist Republicans, which is the sound of our democracy functioning a bit better. As Kilgore concludes, “So dry your tears, ye nostalgic mourners for the days when the Titans of the Senate walked tall. In many respects, you are worshiping false idols of a past, well-buried.”

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