The Filibuster Has Got to Go

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Eliminating the filibuster should be the first task of the Democrats when they retake control of the Senate. Jamelle Bouie, recently grabbed from Slate by the New York Times, clearly lays out why it is folly for leading Democrats to support the filibuster.

He makes all the important points:

  • the filibuster was never part of the Constitution and would not have been supported by the Framers;
  • the filibuster “has been a tool of reactionary obstruction” used “to block or delay anti-lynching laws, bans on poll taxes, bans on literacy tests, and other civil rights laws.” To this list we should add national health care and eliminating the Electoral College.
  • the filibuster undermines the ability of citizens to make democratic change: “routine use of the filibuster has made it difficult for presidents to pursue their agendas and for Congress to pass major legislation. In turn, it has obscured democratic accountability and made voters feel less efficacious — when voting majorities to power isn’t enough to change the way things are, it’s fair to wonder if electoral politics is worth the trouble.”
  • as a practical matter, “Democrats would be lucky to win a Senate majority in 2020, much less the supermajority needed to end a filibuster. For the party to have any hope at actually implementing its agenda, the filibuster needs to be either reformed or eliminated.” 

His conclusion is worth quoting at length:

The Senate was built to govern, not to spend its time in endless deliberation, and the legislative filibuster makes that difficult, if not impossible. It does so in ways that typically disadvantage progressives and reformers, and which will cripple the next Democratic administration, as it nearly did the previous one. Any potential political danger . . . is outweighed by the power that comes with being able to credibly connect the election outcome to a particular policy. Give me the votes, and I’ll give you this plan.

If Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand or any of the other Democratic candidates are actually serious about their policy agendas, the only choice they have is to abandon their attachment to this arcane procedure and lead their party to a firm consensus against a rule that was never supposed to exist.

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