Mr. Smith Defends the Filibuster

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington should be considered required viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in politics. The film – about an idealistic youth leader who suddenly finds himself appointed to the U.S. Senate – is the best example of how reality often does not stack up with our perceptions. Mr. Smith goes to Washington, his mouth agape at the majesty of the Capitol dome, his eyes wide with the grandeur of the Lincoln Memorial, but his mind appalled at the corruption of the people.

While fighting against a crooked back-door deal in the Senate he finds that his only weapon is the filibuster.

In a movie filled with monologues, a journalist, reporting on lowly Senator Smith’s battle, is one of the best.

Half of official Washington is here to see democracy’s finest show, the filibuster, the right to talk your head off, the American privilege of free speech in its most dramatic form. The least man in that chamber, once he gets and holds that floor by the rules, can hold it and talk as long as he can stand on his feet providing always, first, that he does not sit down, second, that he does not leave the chamber or stop talking. The galleries are packed. In the diplomatic gallery are the envoys of two dictator powers. They have come here to see what they can’t see at home. DEMOCRACY IN ACTION.

Democracy’s finest show. Free speech in its most dramatic form. Democracy in action. You would be hard-pressed to find such similar sentiment about the filibuster today. As influential liberal thinker Paul Krugman writes,

“The truth is that given the state of American politics, the way the Senate works is no longer consistent with a functioning government. Senators themselves should recognize this fact and push through changes in those rules, including eliminating or at least limiting the filibuster.”

Nancy Pelosi was a little less blunt in her attack, saying

“A constitutional majority is 51 votes.”

Some Democratic Senators have advanced amendment to reform the long-standing process. Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced a “nuclear option” which would call for the Vice President to declare that the Senate does not have to abide by rules passed decades ago and that a simple majority is all that is needed. Senators Harkin and Shaheen (D-NH) introduced a less explosive option which outlines a four-step process that over the course of prescribed number of days would lower the number of votes required to end a filibuster down to a bare majority.

But is the filibuster being abused? Is it merely a procedural relic unsuited to today’s Senate? These are the questions many pundits have been asking. These are the wrong questions. They focus on the procedural process rather than the people who are employing it.

Political scientist Barbara Sinclair did some historical research and found that 8% of major legislation faced a filibuster in the 1960s. Today that number is closer to 70%. But what has changed in that time? It is not the procedure. The filibuster rule has actually softened. Up until 1975, 67 votes were required (rather than the current 60) to break a filibuster. So it must be the people invoking it. In that vein, Jay Cost put together a chart demonstrating the polarization of the parties over the past 45 years. Growing Partisan Divide

As the graph shows, there is a glaring hole in the middle of the ideological spectrum. Unlike past Congress’ almost no Senator toes the moderate line and no Senator has dared break the ideological mold.

In a governing body that demands broad consensus to get anything done, growing partisanship (on both sides of the aisle) is the finger that pulls the filibuster trigger. To that end we should expect a rise in the use of the filibuster. As Cost explains,

As the parties drift apart ideologically, the majority party will more likely introduce legislation that the minority party can’t accept, giving the latter a stronger incentive to block it via the filibuster. . . In other words, thanks to the filibuster an ideologically extreme majority party cannot simply enact its policy preferences as it sees fit. Instead, it must either find common ground with some on the other side, or do nothing.

In other words, Republicans have dramatically increased the use of the filibuster, but only in response to attempts by Democrats to push through increasingly liberal legislation. Moreover, this is a carefully weighted system. With Democrats holding 59 votes – they only need be slightly bipartisan – a reward for their overwhelming wins in 2008. in fact they only need to win over one Republican vote in the Senate.

Rather than win GOP votes, Democratic initiatives have been bleeding from within their own party. On nearly every key piece of legislation there have been massive defections from centrist Democrats that threatened to derail the bill. For instance, 39 Democrats voted against health care reform in the House. 38 Democrats voted against the new jobs bill. 37 Democrats voted against an increase in the debt limit. Some may want to lay “blame” on Republicans for marching lock-step against these bills, but the fact that centrist Democrats often join them is evidence that the ideological bent of the legislation was too far Left to court any votes.

Regardless of who we point the finger at, both parties would be wise to take lessons from the increasing use of the filibuster. Democrats must learn that it is not being wielded as a purely partisan weapon, but is being used as a defensive tool against a too liberal agenda. Republicans must learn to limit its use to fighting partisan overreaching in the legislative agenda. Both sides must tone down the vocal attacks.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) who now supports eliminating the filibuster was once laid out a defense that would have made Mr. Smith proud. In true Jimmy Stewart form he said,

“[A]t this moment there are those who are planning what I consider to be an assault on the very principles of this Constitution. There are those who wish to change the rules of the Senate and in changing the rules of the Senate, defy tradition, change the rules in the middle of the game, and have a full frontal assault on the unique nature of this institution. That, I think, is an abuse of power. I think it goes way too far. It ignores our Founding Fathers. This nuclear option ignores the Constitution.. . . It is an assault on the principle and value of checks and balances. It is an attempt by the majority party in the Senate to ram through nominees who will not pledge to protect the most important rights of the American people. It is an attempt to say we cannot demand of the President’s nominees that each person be balanced and moderate and committed to the goals of ordinary Americans.”

Like the Capitol Dome and Lincoln Memorial which Mr. Smith stared at with a sense of wonder, the filibuster remains a monument to Democracy. But as Mr. Smith realized, it is the people that exist within and around these monuments that must change if we are to live up to their grandeur.

Brandon Greife is the Political Director of the College Republican National Committee. Read more at www.crnc.org

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But is the filibuster being

But is the filibuster being abused?

Of course it is, by any reasonable estimation. I never had a chance to reply to your last comments when we went around about this before, but the Republican use of the filibuster, now, is, indeed, unprecedented in the entire history of the United States. The data you cite shows this.

Political scientist Barbara Sinclair did some historical research and found that 8% of major legislation faced a filibuster in the 1960s. Today that number is closer to 70%.

Actually, that was the number in the 110th Congress, when Republicans lost control and began abusing the process. Though Sinclair doesn't include this most recent data (because the congress is still ongoing), the number, in the current 111th Congress, is closer to 100%, and is 100% on "major legislation" (Sinclair's focus).

In that earlier post, you made a great show of being outraged that a liberal writer named Benan had "insulted" the public by insulting those who would support Republicans after the antics they've pulled this past year, yet showed no concern at all that Republicans had were insulting the public by abusing the process in order to put a complete halt to the agenda of the president and congressional majority the public overwhelmingly elected, and you avoided addressing the obvious fact, after I'd noted it, that this renders elections meaningless. One can make the Machiavellian (if questionable) argument that this prevents bad legislation from being enacted, but that isn't how elections are supposed to work--it isn't the job of 40% of the public to dictate to the other 60% how things are going to be run. Republicans have shown no concern for this, as the filibuster numbers alone demonstrate, and neither have you.

Instead, you've repeatedly tried to rationalize it, which is what this new post retreads. To wit:

In other words, Republicans have dramatically increased the use of the filibuster, but only in response to attempts by Democrats to push through increasingly liberal legislation.

That's a fanciful interpretation, but not even remotely born out by the facts. The Obama has prefaced his every major legislative proposal with massive concessions to Republicans, to no avail at all. The stimulus bill was 40% wasteful, less stimulative (but Republican-friendly) tax cuts. At the beginning of the health care debate, the Obama began the proceedings by throwing over the side the liberal option (single payer), and, as things went along, happily chucked the "public option" when faced with criticism from the right. And so on. Republicans have filibustered almost all of it.

Not that they're actually against all of it, mind you.

In the real world, Republicans have made a conscious decision to oppose anything of any significance supported by the Obama. Unlike your imaginary "too liberal agenda," examples demonstrating this are legion. The Obama himself recently noted the fate of the PAYGO bill, which would have required new programs be paid for by cutting existing ones; as soon as Obama announced his support for it, 7 Republican Senators who had co-written the bill (four of whom had voted in favor of identical legislation four years earlier) flip-flopped and came out against it. The same thing happened with the proposed debt commission: 5 Republican co-authors of the legislation jumped ship the moment the Obama announced his support for it. When Obama proposed a freeze on non-military spending, the same thing happened. Even John McCain, who had made it a part of his presidential platform, flip-flopped. In order to attract Republican votes, the Obama larded up his stupid "stimulus" bill with wasteful, less stimulative tax cuts--they made up 41% of the bill. He got a total of two Republican votes in the Senate, and the Republicans have made a grand show about ranting against the "socialist" bill in outlets like Fox News, and going on about how it wouldn't work, but, as liberal MSNBC host Rachel Maddow documented last week, 29 of those same Republicans who voted against and denounced the bill then went to their home states and took credit for the projects it was helping fund, and praised its effectiveness.

This is what has been happening for a year, now, while Republicans filibuster and otherwise obstruct the whole of the agenda the current government was elected to enact. And you're still entirely unconcerned with this. My purpose in going on about that is not to rub your nose in your own hypocrisy on this subject; it's to make you and anyone else who may be reading these exchanges stop and think about it. I realize you're a partisan, and doing what partisans do, and, unlike far too many writers, I've certainly never hit partisans for being partisan; I'm an ideological (though not party-connected) partisan myself. The problem with the current political climate is that "partisanship" is increasingly disconnected from truth. One of D.P. Moynihan's most quoted remarks is (to paraphrase), everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but no one is entitled to his own facts. The current conservative movement thinks it IS entitled to its own facts, and is, in large part, disconnected from reality to a degree that is shocking. This is very bad  for the U.S., because you can't run a country on fantasy, particularly not the most powerful in the history fo the world. It's a global disaster just waiting to happen. I don't begrudge partisans their partisanship; I do say that, in order to score partisan points, they should have to earn them. Whatever they can earn, they're welcome to. I didn't care for your earlier effort to earn populist points by beating up on Benen while, at the same time, applauding/rationalizing/being indifferent to far greater offenses to the public by Republicans. Those were partisan points you didn't earn. And that, multipled by millions, is the greatest problem that faces in the U.S. in the 21st century.

Rather than win GOP votes, Democratic initiatives have been bleeding from within their own party... Some may want to lay “blame” on Republicans for marching lock-step against these bills, but the fact that centrist Democrats often join them is evidence that the ideological bent of the legislation was too far Left to court any votes.

They court majorities, and what you're talking about are a small handful of Democratic votes that wouldn't matter if Republicans hadn't made it their policy to oppose anything of any substance advanced by the Obama and the Democrats by use of anti-democratic means. There's always dissension within the Democratic party--it's a "big tent." Republicans are almost always in lock-step because they aren't. They represent a very narrow constituency, and the party has made a conscious effort, for years--but particularly in the last year--to drive all moderates from it. That's the source of the "polarization" everyone loves to harp on when Democrats are in the White House. In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 electoral massacre, Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center hosted a shindig of American conservative elite at which he declared "The moderate wing of the Republican party is dead," and Republicans have spent the last year trying to bury whatever was left of their "moderates." Arlen Specter was driven from the party in this time. We were given the spectacle of the NY23 fiasco, in which the insistence on ideological purity resulted in a Democrat taking the district for the first time since Reconstruction. We're seeing the same thing happen all over the country. Lifelong conservative Republican John McCain was the party standard-bearer in 2008--now, he's being primaried by J.D. Hayworth, a man whose physical resemblance to Hermann Goering is matched only by his political resemblance.  Republicans have tried to get the RNC to impose a 10-point litmus test on candidates as a condition of their receiving any party backing that was so extreme Ronald Reagan wouldn't have qualified as "conservative" by it. You see this sort of extremism in the condemnation of the Obama's handling of the undie-bomber; Bush took the U.S. so far down the road toward fascism that the arresting of a criminal for his crimes is treated as scandalous. The Obama administration has handled the matter in exactly the same way Bush handled untold numbers of identical cases to the unremitting praise of the Republcian right, but anything less than the most extreme fascist Bushite measures by the Obama is deemed insufficiently fascist, and a thing to be condemned.

That's what's been happening with the party this year, and that's the source of the much-touted "polarization."

more filibuster perspective

Political scientist Barbara Sinclair did some historical research and found that 8% of major legislation faced a filibuster in the 1960s. Today that number is closer to 70%.

This is a poor comparison, because from 1960-1968, Republicans had less than 40 Senators; for 4 of those 8 years, Republicans had 33 or fewer, not even enough to sustain a 2/3rds-requirement filibuster.  So of course there were far fewer filibusters in the 1960's, because the Republicans, the minority party, COULDN'T filibuster anything.  You can't filibuster something when you don't have the votes.

Oh, and while the current and previous sessions of Congress represent the most cloture votes in history, guess which session ranks #3?  That's right, 1995-96, the first session in ages that Democrats were in the minority.  That was the first session ever that cloture motions exceeded 80.  How anti-democratic of the Democrats to be thwarting the will of the majority by "abusing" the filibuster!  Why, they were just playing the role of sore losers.  You might say that's when the ball really started rolling on filibuster "abuse".   Right, classicliberal2?  Right?  Where's your outrage at the Democrats for taking us down this road?  I won't hold my breath.

Not really

Your party politics don't interest me, but I'll be glad to set you straight on some things:

This is a poor comparison, because from 1960-1968, Republicans had less than 40 Senators; for 4 of those 8 years, Republicans had 33 or fewer, not even enough to sustain a 2/3rds-requirement filibuster.  So of course there were far fewer filibusters in the 1960's, because the Republicans, the minority party, COULDN'T filibuster anything.  You can't filibuster something when you don't have the votes.

That doesn't make it a poor comparison. The ideological alignment of the parties was different at the time. The Republican and Democratic leaderships were both far more liberal than today, and both parties had conservative and liberal wings, then. A major realignment began toward the end of that period--the Republicans lured most of the racist, right-wing Southern Democrats into their party, a mass exodus that eventually turned the South over to the Republicans (where it remains to this day) while shedding their liberal wing and significantly diminishing their moderates. During the period in question, filibusters were the work of cross-party coalitions, not of parties.

Oh, and while the current and previous sessions of Congress represent the most cloture votes in history, guess which session ranks #3?  That's right, 1995-96, the first session in ages that Democrats were in the minority.  That was the first session ever that cloture motions exceeded 80.

There were 82, to be exact. A number of some significance to what you say next.

You might say that's when the ball really started rolling on filibuster "abuse".

You might, but it wouldn't make much sense, given that there were 80 in the session immediately preceding it, the one in which Repubs were in the minority. But you knew that, didn't you? You were just trying to pull a fast one, weren't you, you clever dog? That session, not the one you chose, was the beginning of a more vigorous use of obstructionism. Still, the years beween '96 and the Republican losses in 2006, didn't quite measure up to those sessions--there was an average of 68.4 cloture votes per congress. When Republicans fell into the minority in the 110th congress, they more-than-doubled that, racking up an astonishing 139, and they're going to beat that in the current congress. You seemed to take much joy in crowing about the 1995-'96 session being #3 on the list. It's #3 with 82 cloture votes over two years; the first year of the current session alone already nearly matches that (just under 80).

Again, the current abuse of the filibuster is without precedent.

How anti-democratic of the Democrats to be thwarting the will of the majority by "abusing" the filibuster!

1995--the first year of Republican dominance--was the year Sen. Tom Harkin first introduced his measure to eliminate the filibuster. Since this sort of thing seems to be important to you, all of that bill's co-sponsors were Democrats, 8 of the 9 liberal Democrats (the other being Joe Lieberman, longtime opponent of the filibuster who now threatens to filibuster any health care reform that contains any reform). That measure went down in flames, 76-19, with most Democrats voting against it, and all Republicans against it. The liberals had it right back then. They have it right today. But don't hold your breath waiting for the larger party on either side to become overly enthusiastic about chucking the procedure.

Harkin and filibusters

That doesn't make it a poor comparison. The ideological alignment of the parties was different at the time.

Oh nonsense.  You brush aside party differences like they meant nothing in the past.  Hellooo, the hippie anti-Vietnam-War protestors weren't exactly falling in love with Republicans, were they?  The fact of the matter is, the only reason there weren't more filibusters in the past is because the Senate was a lot more unbalanced in terms of ideology and party.  There weren't as many filibusters only because there weren't as many conservatives to vote to sustain a filibuster.  If you only have 33 Republicans, and maybe only 20 of those are actual conservatives, then it's pointless to filibuster.  So to compare filibusters today with filibusters in the 60's is to compare apples and oranges.  The left completely dominated the Senate for decades.  And when the left didn't absolutely dominate, the leadership of the Republicans consisted of spineless wimps who didn't filibuster because they wanted to go along to get along.

Still, the years beween '96 and the Republican losses in 2006, didn't quite measure up to those sessions--there was an average of 68.4 cloture votes per congress.

And here is my actual point.  This average of 68.4 cloture votes per Congress, when Democrats were in the minority, was FAR higher than anything that the Senate had seen since before 1993.  So where is your outrage?  Yes the Republican minority used the filibuster an UNPRECEDENTED 80 times in the 1993-94 session.  But the Democrats continued the UNPRECEDENTED high level of filibusters when THEY were in the minority all the way through 2006.  Where is your lament that Democrats were "abusing the filibuster" and "thwarting the will of the majority"?  Yes the Republicans' use of the filibuster today is UNPRECEDENTED.  But at the time, the Democrats' use of the filibuster from 1995-2006 was ALSO UNPRECEDENTED, yet I don't see one word from you fretting about the Democrats creating a "crisis of American democracy".  Fine, you supported Tom Harkin's amendment to repeal the filibuster.  Bully for you.  But somehow I don't sense the same sturm und drang that I'm getting today from you about the CRISIS!!!!!!!! that is upon us. 

If the current use of the filibuster constitutes an abuse, then you ought to recognize the abuse has been going on for some time now, and both parties are complicit in the abuse.  If you think the filibuster itself is the problem, then it would be no big issue for you to admit this.  But you don't - you only see it as a problem because Republicans are the ones "abusing" it.  Therefore I call bullshit.

Oh, by the way - Harkin's amendment in 1995 only had four total sponsors: Harkin, Lieberman, Pell, and Robb.  Not nine.  And here is your hero Harkin defending the filibuster in 2005 when it came to Bush's eeeeeeeeeeeevil judicial nominees.  So much for principle.  This quote is particularly ironic:

But once the rule is destroyed, and once the Majority Leader imposes a new [filibuster] rule to his liking, then who is to say where this will lead? It will be like an out-of-control virus. If 51 Senators can change any rule at any time for any reason, then anything is possible.

 

You brush aside party

You brush aside party differences like they meant nothing in the past.  Hellooo, the hippie anti-Vietnam-War protestors weren't exactly falling in love with Republicans, were they?

You don't even know what you're talking about, as usual. The anti-Vietnam movement was a reaction against Lyndon Johnson's policy. He was the Democratic president. Just in case you didn't know. One of the most common chants of the anti-war protesters was "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" Perhaps at some point in your life you saw some footage of some carnage in the streets of Chicago, blue-helmeted stormtrooper cops mercilessly attacking a lot of those "hippie anti-Vietnam-War protestors." The event in question was the 1968 Democratic convention. Nixon won in '68 by promising to end the war, while Humphrey went down in flames by vowing to continue it.

The fact of the matter is, the only reason there weren't more filibusters in the past is because the Senate was a lot more unbalanced in terms of ideology and party.  There weren't as many filibusters only because there weren't as many conservatives to vote to sustain a filibuster.  If you only have 33 Republicans, and maybe only 20 of those are actual conservatives, then it's pointless to filibuster.

There were about 25-30 conservative Democrats at that time who could join you, and it was a lot harder to break a filibuster, then--67 votes, instead of just 60. Filibusters weren't party affairs then. Just as I said before.

This average of 68.4 cloture votes per Congress, when Democrats were in the minority, was FAR higher than anything that the Senate had seen since before 1993.  So where is your outrage?  Yes the Republican minority used the filibuster an UNPRECEDENTED 80 times in the 1993-94 session.  But the Democrats continued the UNPRECEDENTED high level of filibusters when THEY were in the minority all the way through 2006.

No, they only did that in '95-'96, when they beat the Republicans' record from the previous congress by a grand total of 2 votes. After that, it dropped to 68.4 for the next several congresses, and while that was higher than the historical norm--basic reading comprehension lesson, coming up--it can't be unprecedented--and certainly not "UNPRECEDENTED"--if two previous congresses had already set precedents that significantly exceeded it.

Where is your lament that Democrats were "abusing the filibuster" and "thwarting the will of the majority"?

I've supported ending the filibuster for 16 or 17 years. The reason you don't see me lamenting the filibuster from, say, 1996 here is because this is a thread about the filibuster in 2010. You apparently find some sort of personal fulfilment in these diversionary jaunts down memory lane, but they're about as relevant to the issue at hand as the fact that Elvis died.

Yes the Republicans' use of the filibuster today is UNPRECEDENTED.  But at the time, the Democrats' use of the filibuster from 1995-2006 was ALSO UNPRECEDENTED, yet I don't see one word from you fretting about the Democrats creating a "crisis of American democracy".

Because--to spell it out again--this isn't 1995. This thread has been about the unprecedented abuse of the filibuster now. Its prevous "UNPRECEDENTED" uses by both parties are neither relevant nor did they have the effect of the current abuse of it. Republicans more than doubled the previous 10-year average when they fell into the minority ,and are going to beat that record this year, because, unlike in those previous years, they've filibustering nearly everything.

If the current use of the filibuster constitutes an abuse, then you ought to recognize the abuse has been going on for some time now, and both parties are complicit in the abuse.

Previous uses and abuses aren't like the current ones--that's what the word "unprecedented" means. Whatever negative judgment one renders on a decision to filibuster 1/3 of the bills introduced is going to be much harsher on a decision to filibuster nearly every bill introduced. And there's no way around that.

Therefore I call bullshit.

A good one-word summation of the substance of your work on this topic to date.

Oh, by the way - Harkin's amendment in 1995 only had four total sponsors: Harkin, Lieberman, Pell, and Robb.  Not nine.

A result of my misreading my own notes--the nine in question were the ones who voted against tabling it, and were still in congress when I made the note. Most Democrats and all Republicans voted against the bill, which only had the support of some of the liberals, and it died a brutal death.

And here is your hero Harkin defending the filibuster in 2005 when it came to Bush's eeeeeeeeeeeevil judicial nominees.  So much for principle.  This quote is particularly ironic:

But once the rule is destroyed, and once the Majority Leader imposes a new [filibuster] rule to his liking, then who is to say where this will lead? It will be like an out-of-control virus. If 51 Senators can change any rule at any time for any reason, then anything is possible.

Actually, that distinctly un-ironic comment doesn't have anything to do with the filibuster at all; it's part of a tirade against changing the Senate's rules in violation of the Senate's rules for doing so. The rules of the Senate require a 2/3 majority to change. At the time, Republicans were proposing to, instead, use a simple majority vote to change them, which would, as Harkin points out, set an horrendous precedent. That's most of what Harkin's remarks are directed toward, and his point is unassailable, though, as you demonstrate, it clearly went right over your head.

temper tantrum

Hey, classicliberal2, here's a clue.  Why were Vietnam protestors disrupting the Democrat Convention, and not the Republican one?  Because they were LIBERALS, trying to make America's LIBERAL party, even MORE LIBERAL.  It would have been stupid even for them to show up to the Republican convention to try to persuade them to become more liberal, because the Republican Party wasn't America's liberal party, not even in 1968.  I don't know what fantasy world you live in, but in the real world, the Democratic Party has been America's liberal party, and the Republican party has been America's conservative party, for a while now, a lot longer than the 40ish years since the 1960's.  Republicans haven't always been free-market libertarians, Democrats haven't always been communist sympathizers, but they have played their respective roles to varying degrees for a while now.

And yes, Democrats used the filibuster in UNPRECEDENTED ways when they were in the minority.  Republicans used the filibuster 80 times in the 1993-94 session, the first time EVER that it had exceeded 60.  then, in the 1995-96 session, Democrats used it 82 times; but from then on out, Democrats continued to use it at an UNPRECEDENTEDLY high rate compared to all of Senate history before 1993.  In fact it never went below 60 the whole time.  THAT is the unprecedented part.  The Democrats turned the filibuster into a routine weapon to be wielded against the majority, as opposed to a rare instance of checking insane abuses of power.  THE DEMOCRATS DID THAT.  And now the Republicans are using the exact same strategy that the Democrats used when they were in the minority, just more frequently.  And somehow NOW it's a "crisis".

You suffer from this nostalgic delusion that in the "good old days", Democrats and Republicans worked together, got stuff done, then sang kumbaya afterwards; but now, in the modern era, the mean meanie Republicans have thrown away all sense of decency and started using the wicked filibuster in UNPRECEDENTED ways to create a "crisis of American democracy", with of course nefarious motives in mind.  Here's something closer to the truth.  In the "good old days", Democrats got things done by steamrolling Republicans, co-opting Republicans, browbeating Republicans, betraying Republicans, ignoring Republicans, and otherwise subverting Republicans.  "Bipartisan" was (and still is) defined as a few token Republicans agreeing with a large majority of Democrats to implement a liberal agenda.  So, a lot of "bipartisan" (liberal) stuff got done.  This generally wasn't a problem for Democrats, because they enjoyed large majorities, and Republicans generally lacked spine anyway.  It's only when Reagan came along that Republicans started truly asserting themselves and making a major challenge on Democrats for power.  Now that conservatives have a semblance of a voice in DC, it's only now that liberals fret and moan about the "crisis of American democracy", and it's not just limited to the use of the filibuster.  Ever since 1994 - ever since Reagan, really - we have been subjected to a perpetual temper tantrum from the left, as they feel entitled to power in DC and are cranky when they don't have unchecked authority to do what they want, like in the "good old days".  This is why hard-core liberals STILL hate Reagan, even 30 years later.  He brought the liberal party to an end.  You can see this by looking at how liberals react to Republicans.  They cannot merely disagree with Republicans.  For instance:

When Democrats impose a liberal agenda, it's good for America and a triumph of liberal virtue; but when Republicans (attempt to) impose a conservative agenda, it's not merely wrong to them, but an example of "hyper-partisanship"; it's a "crisis of democracy" that Republicans aren't being more "bipartisan"; and hey, shouldn't the rules be "reformed" to require the majority to listen to the minority?

When Democrats make radical and dangerously hyperbolic public statements, it's an exercise of free speech and the solemn right to dissent; but when Republicans make not-quite-so-radical and hardly-dangerous over-the-top public statements, they don't merely disagree with the words; it's Republicans setting a "dangerous tone", speaking in "racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. code words", and otherwise "undermining the fabric of democracy" with their misplaced words.  Dare I say it smacks of treason?

And now, when Democrats use the filibuster in UNPRECEDENTED ways, they are engaging in the time-honored traditions of the Senate; but when Republicans use the filibuster in UNPRECEDENTED ways, they don't merely disagree with the Republicans' filibusters on policy grounds, they claim Republicans are dangerously poisoning the very soul of American government.

The clear message is that to the liberals, Republicans not only don't deserve to be in power, they don't even deserve to be anywhere near DC.  Because Republicans exercising power isn't just wrongheaded in their view, it's a THREAT TO THE VERY EXISTENCE OF AMERICA.  As you said yourself, Bush wasn't just wrong on the war in Iraq, he was a proto-fascist who led America down a dangerous path to misery and disaster!  This is utter and complete nonsense, but I have no doubt you believe it with all of your soul, even while you profess to be "nonpartisan".  You're just engaging in the same temper-tantrum behavior.  You long for the "good old days" when liberals actually did stuff, i.e., before those uppity Republicans got their foot in the door.  How dare those Republicans speak out of turn!

So I view this current "crisis", and your hyperventilating over it, as just more of the same.  It is just one more instance of the liberal temper tantrum.  They depict Republican exercises of power in the starkest, bleakest, most apocalyptic ways because that's how teenagers view parents' exercise of authority.  "If you don't let me go to the mall, I'm just gonna DIE!!!!!!!!!!"

So, if you want people to take you seriously, then stop throwing a temper tantrum.  Acknowledge that while you disagree with Republicans, that we aren't inherenly wicked, we aren't proto-fascists or raging racists, we aren't traitors, and we aren't especially injuring the soul of the nation by doing the exact same things that Democrats do.

And if you're going to talk about abuses of the filibuster, then talk about ALL THE ABUSES of the filibuster.  And, maybe, propose something constructive that might work in its stead, consistent with the traditions of the Senate and the intentions of the Founding Fathers.  You all are claiming that Republicans are the party of no; but what are you doing, if not merely bitching about Republicans?  Where's your bright idea?

Oh, and just for you, here are some more Harkin quotes for ya, to show you what a complete and utter hypocrite your hero is:

“But by attacking the filibuster, the Republican leaders would destroy the ability of the Senate to “protect the people against their rulers.” The Senate would lose its capacity to stand up to an out-of-control majority. Instead, the Senate would be turned into a rubber stamp for the majority’s agenda, just as the House is a rubber stamp for the majority’s agenda now. And that would be a betrayal of the Senate’s traditional role, as envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

“Mr. President, the majority party in the Senate – whether Democratic or Republican -- has always been frustrated by the minority’s use of the filibuster. But I would submit that frustration is the necessary byproduct of an effective system of checks and balances; it is the price we pay to safeguard minority rights.

“Ten years ago, I proposed to modify the filibuster rule as a matter of principle. Today, the Republican leadership wants to modify the filibuster as a matter of political expediency, to make it possible to stack the courts with radical judges. They are pursuing unchecked power, the absolute control of all three branches of government. In this context, the filibuster takes on new importance. It is all that remains to check the majority’s quest for absolute power.

See?  When Democrats are filibustering, it's right and proper and the way James Madison would have wanted it.  But when Republicans filibuster?  It's a CRISIS!!!!11111!111!111eleventy!!!!!11111!!!1

Gee, Chemical Ali, that is a classic hurt you put on 'em

Chemjiffy, such voluminous patience in your reply and Reality Quotes from Harkin.   I feel a 23 Page response coming from Classic ignorance .......as soon as he limps out of the woodshed.

Volume must equal "Truth" for some Liberals.  Some of the same BS is not going on this week, as the Liberals cannot get their factual lies straight...like these propaganda quotes...

 

On CNN, Democratic National Chairman Tim Kaine announced that the stimulus plan had saved or created up to 2.4 million. That was a full 20% higher than the 2-million figure being used by Obama, VP Joe Biden and others in the administration. One has to wonder why Kaine did not just go full force with his lie and announce that the stimulus had already met Obama’s goal of saving or creating 3.5 million jobs by the end of this year.

 

thanks

Thanks, but please don't refer to me as "Chemical Ali".

so sorry, 非常抱歉

But classic may have had it cross his mind.....I will turn the filters on.

Quick Response

I only have a short time to respond so I'll address what has been our central disagreement over the past few posts. You say, that I've shown no concern that

Republicans were insulting the public by abusing the process in order to put a complete halt to the agenda of the president and congressional majority the public overwhelmingly elected, and you avoided addressing the obvious fact, after I'd noted it, that this renders elections meaningless.

But I have addressed this. I made a market based argument that if the public viewed the Republican's actions as "abusing the process" or disregarding the mandate they gave President Obama in the last election then their obvious response would be to increase the Democratic majorities in Congress to ensure the agenda passes. But we're seeing the exact opposite! Across the board, Republicans are making races more competitive and winning in the unlikeliest of places.

Elections are not meaningless, they are incredibly meaningful, and they are exactly why Republicans are behaving the way they are. They are referendums on how they view each of the party's. Obama won largely because America was tired of the way George Bush was doing things. Democrats were then handed the keys to the car and expected to make some changes. Republicans acted to stop what they considered to be a too far Left of center agenda. Rather than feel insulted, the public has shown support for this strategy, suggesting that Democrats misread the tea-leaves.

 

But I have addressed this. I

But I have addressed this. I made a market based argument

But your "argument" was embarrassing in both its weakness and its particulars. To quote it, from that earlier post:

let’s think of government as a free market. Republicans are obstructing (rightly in my view) legislation which they deem to be bad. If the public viewed the legislation positively they would therefore view the Republican opposition with disdain. But to the contrary, a Republican was elected in Massachusetts and the GOP is becoming competitive in the unlikeliest of places. In other words, the voting public is rewarding Republicans.

The "free market" did speak: Through it, Democrats won the executive and 59 of 100 Senate seats. And the filibuster and every other anti-democratic tactic was brought to bear against the government the public had elected, and elected by huge margins; it started from the day that government was sworn in. Sure, if you use anti-democratic means to prevent that government from accomplishing anything, while bringing to bear multi-million-dollar smear campaigns accusing the majority party of being socialist, of being fascist, of trying to kill old people, and of being headed by a fellow who isn't even an American and is probably a Muslim, you may get enough people to believe that, or make enough of that parties' base come to see it as accomplishing little, or turn enough people off the process so they don't show up, and maybe that sort of thing will cumulatively make one's polls rise and change the outcome of the next election, but that isn't how things are supposed to work. It's just a way of rendering elections meaningless.

And no, the election of one Senator (who was a moderate and not elected on the basis of opposing Obama) doesn't change that, and that you would even suggest this is what made your "argument" particularly embarrassing.

if the public viewed the Republican's actions as "abusing the process" or disregarding the mandate they gave President Obama in the last election then their obvious response would be to increase the Democratic majorities in Congress to ensure the agenda passes.

That is an explicitly anti-democratic argument: You're saying an overhwhelming supermajority should be required to pass anything. The public had already given Obama the White House in a one-sided massacre, and his party nearly 60% of congress, and your response--spelled out above, in black and white--is that, if it wants done what it has already overwhelmingly elected that government to do, it should have to elect an even larger majority.

Elections are not meaningless, they are incredibly meaningful, and they are exactly why Republicans are behaving the way they are.

You just made the explicit argument that elections are meaningless unless the public elects an even more overwhelming supermajority. That's a notion of "meaningful elections" that doesn't have any connection to liberal democratic government as it has existed for centuries.

They are referendums on how they view each of the party's. Obama won largely because America was tired of the way George Bush was doing things. Democrats were then handed the keys to the car and expected to make some changes.

...which Republicans then entirely prevented them from making, thus neutralizing the election. In your continuing effort to rationalize this, you next retreat to a myth about the current political environment which I've already dismantled:

Republicans acted to stop what they considered to be a too far Left of center agenda.

No, an increasingly reactionary Republican party proceeded to mischaracterize what was being proposed as being "a too far Left of center agenda," ignoring the fact that it's the very agenda that elected this government, and made it party policy not to cooperate with Obama on anything, even legislation they, themselves, have written and support. As I've already shown.

One can, as I've already said, take the Machiavellian view that Republican abuses have prevented some bad proposals from becoming law, but that isn't how things are supposed to work; it's not the job of the tail to wag the dog.

Elections authorize you to do what you said you would do....

In "O"s situation, he thought the Election was a blank check, and Congress also thought it was a blank check.   When the Bills are Defined later (not on election day), at that time you evaluate what the Bill does to the American People, Jobs, economy, Foreign Policy, Deficit, etc.....all these details were NOT defined in the Election.

"O" lied, bills died.   As they say in Russia, Toughshtski.

Elections have consequences, so does Legislation.........when its defined and reviewed by the American People and/or Representatives.

Republicans have become oblivious to their own hypocrisy, again.

Sorry Brandon, Republicans have become oblivious to their own hypocrisy, again.  It was only a few short years ago when the D's were in the minority R's were ready to kill the filibuster (known as the "nuclear" option) because they felt the D's were overusing the filibuster.  And I've gotta say this little bit of spin or rationalization or whatever you want to call it is really rather weak.  What it boils down to Brandon is you are saying "yes, the R's use the filibuster too much but the liberals made us do it by being to liberal".

Do you guys even hear yourselves?  You just went from accusing the D's of filibustering too much a few years ago to doing exactly the same thing, exept much more frequently.  And it seems like for the past year, Republicans operate as if the past never happened on every issue.

Do you guys even hear

Do you guys even hear yourselves?

It's a question I keep asking myself when I read the posts. It's no radical notion that American conservatism is in its present sorry shape because of the extent to which it has isolated itself within a comfortable bubble of political fantasy that rarely allows reality to penetrate, but the  remarkable degree of doublethink that increasingly accompanies this brings a whole new level of Disturbing to the trend. I'm not so much concerned about harping on hypocrisy as I am about trying to understand what that hypocrisy means. It's more significant to me as a symptom of a much larger problem than as a problem in and of itself. Far too many of those on the right are able to spin whatever nonsense is required to rationalize, in their own minds, just about anything, and that's the end of American conservatism if it isn't stopped.

So, The democrats did NOT have a 60 majority all of 2009 ?

I think the Senate and the Congress had Majority votes all of 2009........unless you want to say that the Senate had Liberman as an Independent...(who usually voted Democrat)...unless you want to say AL Franken wasn't around for a few months.

When Mass. happened, the Democrats STILL had a Senate majority all of January.

What Republican hypocrites ?   A few weeks in February for "Filibuster" possibility ?   The Senate HC Bill passed the Senate, before that, the Congressional version of the HC bill passed.   What Filibuster ?   The Republicans were powerless in Congress, and in the Senate with only 40 votes.  Al Franken arrived, you passed the Democrat version of the HC Bill in the Senate, you passed HC in BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS. 

Again, what Filibuster ?  When ?

I think the Senate and the

I think the Senate and the Congress had Majority votes all of 2009........unless you want to say that the Senate had Liberman as an Independent...(who usually voted Democrat)...unless you want to say AL Franken wasn't around for a few months.

The Democrats have had a majority through all of this. They just don't have a filibuster-proof one. Lieberman is not a Democrat, and has actively sabotaged things like the health care reform effort.

When Mass. happened, the Democrats STILL had a Senate majority all of January.

They do after "Mass. happened." But you seem to think you're making some sort of point by saying that, and, well, you aren't.

What Republican hypocrites ?

The ones who threaten to eliminate the filibuster, then, when falling into the minority, use it against everything, perhaps? Maybe it's the Republicans who keep voting against legislation they, themselves, wrote and sponsored as soon as Obama announces his suport for it? Maybe it's the ones who vote against the "stimulus" bill and trash it on national right-wing outlets, then go home to their states and take credit for it? It could be the College Republican fellow who makes a show of getting offended by an internet writer who allegedly insulted the public by suggestin Republican supporters are nuts, then spends so much time rationalizing the actual insult to the public inherent in bottling up every major legislative initiative of the overhwhelming majority the public overwhelmingly elected? Come, now, if you're following this thread and you're not a complete imbecile, you've seen plenty of examples of Republican hypocrisy.

A few weeks in February for "Filibuster" possibility ?   The Senate HC Bill passed the Senate, before that, the Congressional version of the HC bill passed.   What Filibuster ?   The Republicans were powerless in Congress, and in the Senate with only 40 votes.  Al Franken arrived, you passed the Democrat version of the HC Bill in the Senate, you passed HC in BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS.

The Democratic version of health care (single payer) was never even allowed to be considered in either house, much less passed. The bills that were considered and passed were modeled on the Republican Romneycare, the plan suggested by Republican Bob Dole, and the health care plan of Republican Judd Gregg, and the Republicans fought these, their own industry-friendly, market-based proposals, as though they were some sort of socialist takeover. The House, which has no filibuster, passed a bill with some genuine reforms. The Senate had 52-54 votes (depending on some provisions) to pass a similar bill, but the Republican filibuster threat, invoking that 60-vote requirement, resulted in an even more conservative bill, with all genuine reforms stripped from it, and the promise that any bill with real reform wouldn't pass that filibuster-proof majority.

Perhaps you should try to learn something of these matters before coming here and ranting about them without any knowledge--it would save some time.

 

Perhaps you should use a Dictionary to look up "filibuster"

To PREVENT or obstruct the passage of Legislation.....

60 = Filibuster Proof Majority

You following me here ?

60 votes equals one Senate Healthcare Bill, the Congressional "Majority" also passed their version of the HC written by Democrats.

if you don't like them because they are not Single Payer, then you need to moan and groan at the Democratic Filibuster Proof Majority. Well, not anymore, you only had it for 6 months or so.

Pelosi and Reid and the Democrats let you down.....Sorry, they were the Idiots in charge....all 60 of them in the Senate, and 218 in the Congress.
And do look up the definition of Filibuster.

To put it another way, on your "Filibuster" comment

Point in fact: You had the supermajority for ONE YEAR and could have passed anything you wanted.

You still have the majority.

Man up and accept the failure of Leadership, quit blaming Republicans.

Point in fact: You had the

Point in fact: You had the supermajority for ONE YEAR and could have passed anything you wanted.

Fact: Democrats have never had 60 votes in the Senate at any point in the last year, and your repitition of this doesn't make it any more true. The most they ever had was 58. Of the two indies, Bernie Sanders is a de facto Democrat, Joe Lieberman is a de facto Republican.

Fact: Democrats have had (and still have) a Senate majority that could have passed whatever they wanted, were it not for Republican abuse of the filibuster--unprecedented in U.S. history--requiring 60 votes to pass anything. Your efforts to lay blame for this at the feet of Democratic leaders amount to a lie.

Joe Lieberman is a de facto Republican ? Wow, call the Media

Joe Lieberman is a de facto Republican..........Man that is Big News, call the Media and let 'em know that one, its bigger news that Bayh's Retirement !  

As for the statement that "were it not for Republican abuse of the filibuster--unprecedented in U.S. history--requiring 60 votes to pass anything"  Sorry, thats the rules of the Senate, 60 votes on all but Budget Reconciliation.   That is NOT abuse.....its your opinion that its Abuse, sorta like Ex-Democrat Iraq war supporter is Republican, because he supports the Iraq War or whatever Reason you're thinking he is Republican (your opinion again).....becasue it ain't his voting record in the Senate.

Here ya are....History speaks

Filibuster was particularly heavily used by Senators from Southern states to block civil rights legislation.[7]

In 1975, the Democratic Senate majority, having achieved a net gain of four seats in the 1974 Senate elections to a strength of 61 (with an additional Independent caucusing with them for a total of 62), reduced the necessary supermajority to three-fifths (60 out of 100). However, as a compromise to those who were against the revision, the new rule also changed the requirement for determining the number of votes needed for a cloture motion's passage from those Senators "present and voting" to those Senators "duly chosen and sworn". Thus, 60 votes for cloture would be necessary regardless of whether every Senator voted. The only time a lesser number would become acceptable is when a Senate seat is vacant. (For example, if there were two vacancies in the Senate, thereby making 98 Senators "duly chosen and sworn", it would only take 59 votes for a cloture motion to pass.) [6]

The new version of the cloture rule, which has remained in place since 1975, makes it considerably easier for the Senate majority to invoke cloture.

 

@ClassicLiberal Facts you can't handle

Unfortunately for liberals, this system of checks and balances (Filibuster) is a feature, not a bug of the American system.

Lets assume for my argument, since you assumed for yours, that Liberman is a democrat.

The Democrats only had 59 votes until July when Franken was seated. that made it 60 votes for the Democrats.  I withdraw the ALL YEAR comment, lets jsut say 1/2 the Year.  

59 votes is a lot and other than the 'stimulus' (which passed) the big ticket items like health care and Cap and Trade weren't ready for votes until after Franken (60) took his seat. They still couldn't get it done.

Then we can Compare BUSH to Obama......

George W. Bush’s first tax cut was contentious when Congress considered it back in 2001. So contentious, in fact, that the Bushies didn’t even try passing it under normal Senate procedures. The GOP leadership, worried that it couldn’t collect 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster, relied on reconciliation.

What fewer people remember (including ClassicLiberal) is the margin by which Bush’s tax cut finally passed the Senate. As it happens, the number of yeas was 62—including 12 Democrats. That would qualify as a bipartisan love-fest by Obama standards.

Obama is NOT a Leader of the level and Quality of President Bush.   Bush knew how to involve the Liberal left, or enough of the Liberal left to get the JOB DONE.  

 

Missing the Forest for the Trees

It wasn't embarassing. And you failed to respond to it. I'll ask it more bluntly...

Why aren't Democrats going to cushion their margins in 2010?

The market spoke in 2008. Democrats won handily. But you seem to forget that market's are constantly fluid and that rational actors operate in response to these changes. If the voting public continued to believe in Democrats' policy ideas then they would punish Republican obstructionism and Democrats would win handily again.

This isn't happening. Why?

It wasn't

It wasn't embarassing.

Embarrassing enough that you're avoiding addressing it yet again, while trying to sidetrack the conversation:

And you failed to respond to it. I'll ask it more bluntly...

Why aren't Democrats going to cushion their margins in 2010?

I didn't fail to respond to that--you just failed to comprehend that response. Or, if I had my guess, you understood it perfectly well, but having no real reply to any of the substantive matters on the table, just decided to pretend otherwise.

Give yourself a pat on the back for sidetracking this exchange. If you ever decide you want, instead, to honestly address these matters, I'm around here pretty regularly.

Democritus

It was admittedly hypocritical - but you only point the finger at Republicans. You also must realize that Democrat's stance is also hypocritical for exactly the same reason. I encourage you to read the Senator Durbin quote at the end of my post again. When in the majority he believed that threats to eliminate the filibuster would be an assault on the principles of the Constitution....he now advocates reforms which in essence neuter the filibuster.

 

I'll freely admit Republicans have flip-flopped. But Democrats have as well. What I'm trying to point out is that we need to get past this partisan gaming.

I'll freely admit Republicans

I'll freely admit Republicans have flip-flopped. But Democrats have as well. What I'm trying to point out is that we need to get past this partisan gaming.

No, you aren't. You're engaging in partisan gaming. In the name of pure partisanship, you're rationalizing the abuses of your own part, even as those abuses render elections meaningless.

Not so fast my friend

No my friend, the Dems are not guilty of hypocrisy.  Changing one's opinion based on circumstances does not equal hypocrisy.  If the circumstances were the same, then I would be forced to agree with you.

At first, like you, I was resistant to the idea of getting rid of the filibuster.  And like Durbin, I too previously had considered the filibuster an important tool for the minority to break out in an emergency.  But what you don't seem to understand is that the Republicans are literally filibustering everything, and thats not an exaggeration.

So now although I previously supported the limited use of the filibuster, I now see that only responsible represenatives can be trusted with such a weapon.  The Republicans simply aren't interested in governing.  Their sole purpose has become obstruction.

But in the end, you guys have nothing to worry about.  The party of No is in no danger of loosing it's favorite obstructionist tactic for it takes 67 votes to change the Senate rules.  And the Dems don't have the balls.

No my friend, the Dems are

No my friend, the Dems are not guilty of hypocrisy.  Changing one's opinion based on circumstances does not equal hypocrisy.  If the circumstances were the same, then I would be forced to agree with you.

At first, like you, I was resistant to the idea of getting rid of the filibuster.  And like Durbin, I too previously had considered the filibuster an important tool for the minority to break out in an emergency.  But what you don't seem to understand is that the Republicans are literally filibustering everything, and thats not an exaggeration.

No, in their arguments, a lot of Demos were guilty of hypocrisy--they said it was an essential tool, then want to get rid of it. The argument you're really making isn't that they're innocent of being hypocrites--it's that their flip-flop is justified by the current circumstances. That's definitely a sustainable case. They rested their earlier pro-filibuster arguments on unsustainable cases.

And for all their talk, then and now, neither side really has much enthusiasm for getting rid of the practice. I do, however, think the current situation has probably brought a lot more around on it, if it was ever put to a vote.

Good Point

Changing one's opinion based on the circumstances does not equal hypocrisy.

However, I'm left wondering if Republicans could not use the same defense against your claim of hypocrisy. Their increased and unprecedented use of the filibuster is merely the response to differing circumstances, ie. an overly partisan agenda.

Moderate Democrats are defecting at surprising levels. Before retiring Democrat Evan Bayh said,

"Whenever you have just the furthest left elements of the Democratic Party attempting to impose their will on the rest of the country, that’s not going to work too well.”

If Democrats cannot win over the moderates of their party, we can't act surprised that Republicans, who's only procedural tool is the filibuster, would threaten to use it.

I want to get beyond the partisanship in Washington. I want to see things accomplished because there are real problems that need solving. I just don't believe that all of the blame lay at the feet of Republicans for using the filibuster, I tend to believe that the blame need to be shared by Democrats' who failed to create policies capable of courting Republican votes.

Changing one's opinion based

Changing one's opinion based on the circumstances does not equal hypocrisy.

Those Demos who, in the past, spoke of the filibuster as some sort of indispensible part of Senate procedure can legitimately be hit with charges of hypocrisy when they change their tune later. If they spoke of it, in the past, as a matter of principle, the question of circumstances is irrelevant, because if it was really a matter of some firmly-held "principle," it would hold true now just as much as then. The real argument--the one that is wholly sustainable--is that their flip-flop is undertandable and perhaps even excusable given present circumstances.

However, I'm left wondering if Republicans could not use the same defense against your claim of hypocrisy. Their increased and unprecedented use of the filibuster is merely the response to differing circumstances, ie. an overly partisan agenda.

I just outlined first problem with that: The Demos in question can't legitimately use that defense against a charge of hypocrisy. The second is that the Republicans, not the Democrats, are the source of the "overly partisan agenda," something I've covered in some detail elsehwere in this thread.

If Democrats cannot win over the moderates of their party, we can't act surprised that Republicans, who's only procedural tool is the filibuster, would threaten to use it.

 

The Democrats have a big tent, unlike the Republicans, and they have people, like Bayh, whose politics show very little variation from those of the Republican leadership. The conservatives are a minority in the Democratic party. That they exist and that, when combined with the Republicans, they keep the Demos shortn of any sort of filibuster-proof majority is, in no sense, an argument for the minority permanently obstructing the will of the majority. That argument is no different than the one you advanced earlier, that the election of a single Senator in Massachusetts should trump the landslide election of the current president and his party in congress. It's still the minority anti-democratically obstructing the majority and you acting as an apologist for this.

Quick Hit

But what you're missing is that the conservative minority of Democrats and the entire Republican caucus - which are often now acting together - make liberal Democrats the bare majority. The legislative process is designed to pass only legislation that has broad based support and appeal - so it is working as it should. If Democrats could craft legislation that could capture the interest of their "big tent" then I would be more apt to question Republican's unified antagonism.

The big tent is an apt analogy, but for this conversation I think it is more useful to view them along a left-right spectrum. Even the most conservative Democrats are likely to be to the left of the most liberal Republican - so if you can't win those votes it should logically say something about the ideological slant of the legislation being offered.

This is not meant as an answer to your comment. Just pointing it out as something for you to keep in mind.

 Let us get down to the nitty

 Let us get down to the nitty gritty. People may not like the far left as they have seen in the last year. However, they don't want the far right either. We saw 8 years of neoconism, militarism, laissez-faire ( on jobs and infrastructure), tax cuts for the rich, and religionism. All we saw for 8 years is our jobs go overseas, our money go to Iraq, and the neglect of our country. So titles that say conservativism and/or "free market principles" are too vague. It can mean many things and mostly it means tax cuts for the rich, cuts in spending and neglecting the rest of our problems. 

The tea parties can go and is going in a thousand directions. And anyone who says that it is just tax cuts, free market principles, and religion is a total nut. [Palin]

Add to that, you have 535 bosses on the hill and that means 535 directions, pork barrel, failed ideology, thousands of lobbyists, blocking of legislation, and nothing is getting done. The people in the middle are disgusted with what is going on and we are losing the middle class. 

 

Democrats have a shredded Tent

So, how many elections do the Republicans have to win this year for the minority to become the majority in your mind ?
There are NO TEA Party Members under the Democrat "Big" Tent, and the Grass roots Tea Partiers are marching on your so called "Majority".

The writers of the Constitution had a plan, and Obama does not like the plan, sounds like you don't like the way American democracy works.
As for your comment "like Bayh, whose politics show very little variation from those of the Republican leadership."
LOL, you have got to be kidding ? Bayh voted for every Obama/Democrat Bill. Every one, 100 %.
And your comment on the 52 % "landslide election of the current president" is doubly laughable.....REAGAN won 49 states, now that's a Landslide.

I've Read and Reread

First off, what startled as principled discussion has devolved into attacks. I'm here to discuss the issues and welcome viewpoints from the other side. My posts are honest assessments of how I view the world and I appreciate honest debate about them. I lament the partisanship that predominates Washington. I feel that neither party is doing a good job accomplishing what they were sent to Washington to do. I feel that Republicans have recently drifted off course from conservatism and are trying to find their way back to it. But I feel as if you are painting me into a corner in which I don't exist and in so doing are attempting to goad me into a partisan debate. The debate has devolved to a point where in one post you accuse Republicans of fascism, yet in your second lament that Republicans are engaging in

smear campaigns accusing the majority party of being socialist, of being fascist

I'd like to take this debate back down to a reasonable level please.

That having been said, I've read and reread each of your responses and cannot find (or comprehend) your response to my point. I read a lot about how Repubilcans are abusing the process and using undemocratic means to stall the Democratic agenda. But I don't see an answer to why the public is rewarding them for it. Could you please explain your answer to my market argument?

Thank you for your consistent engagement and I hope for a ongoing productive debates.

 

  First off, what startled as

 

First off, what startled as principled discussion has devolved into attacks.

Not really. I lose some patience when it seems to me someone is just dancing around an issue, instead of addressing it.

 

I lament the partisanship that predominates Washington.

I don't begrudge partisans their partisanship. What I find extremely objectionable is meritless partisanship, the kind that isn't rooted in reality. Elsewhere in this thread, I was just writing about how Democrats who previously portrayed the filibuster as some sort of indispensible element of Senatorial process and have now come out against it can legitimately be hit with charges of hypocrisy. Moreover, they earned those kinds of partisan hits, and deserve whatever lumps they get. When you hit that Benen fellow for trashing the public by trashing supporters of Republicans, then spend so much time trying to rationalize away the actual and far more significant trashing of the public we've seen in the past year, you're offering an example of meritless partisanship.

I, myself, am an ideological partisan (though not connected to any party). I can be quite fierce in defending my point of view, but that point of view is based in reality. I'm not some clown who goes off claiming a snowstorm disproves global climate change, and I dont continue to cling to something after its shown to be wrong. I'm not against the Senate version of the health care bill, to use another example already mentioned, because it has been passed by Democrats or because I indulge in the insane fantasy that it represents "socialism" or sets up "death panels" to do away with Granny. I'm against it because it will make an already-bad health care situation in the U.S. infinitely worse, while, at the same time, making it much more difficult to change it. It sets up a corrupt triangle of money flowing from the government, through subsidies, to the public, which, in turn, must send it to the health insurance  companies, thus propping up a failed industry, and that industry will then use a portion of this huge infusion of new cash to buy up members of congress, even more of them and even more completely than they do now, to make sure no one ever changes this sweetheart system (the U.S. Supreme Court just made the last part of this MUCH worse).

Partisans who play it straight are just fine with me. The "partisanship that dominates Washington" at the moment isn't the kind that plays it straight. That's why it's a problem.

 

But I feel as if you are painting me into a corner in which I don't exist and in so doing are attempting to goad me into a partisan debate.

No, you always exist in what I write. I don't aim my posts at generic "Republicans" or "Democrats" and make whoever I'm addressing responsible for all the sins of their party. Just the ones they assume for themselves. I'm not attempting to goad you into a "partisan debate." Not one concerned with parties, anyway. It has primarily been about the filibuster (and related issues), which is a question of procedure and appropriate behavior. The reason you so often aren't getting what I'm saying is that you're looking at it through that partisan lens, seeing me as someone looking to tear down "your team," instead of just taking my words for what they are. I have no interest in tearing down one party in the name of the other--I don't like either of them. I'm writing about what is actually happening in American politics at the time, and why it's a problem for the American system of government.

That having been said, I've read and reread each of your responses and cannot find (or comprehend) your response to my point. I read a lot about how Repubilcans are abusing the process and using undemocratic means to stall the Democratic agenda. But I don't see an answer to why the public is rewarding them for it. Could you please explain your answer to my market argument?

 

Me, from earlier:

"Sure, if you use anti-democratic means to prevent that government from accomplishing anything, while bringing to bear multi-million-dollar smear campaigns accusing the majority party of being socialist, of being fascist, of trying to kill old people, and of being headed by a fellow who isn't even an American and is probably a Muslim, you may get enough people to believe that, or make enough of that parties' base come to see it as accomplishing little, or turn enough people off the process so they don't show up, and maybe that sort of thing will cumulatively make one's polls rise and change the outcome of the next election, but that isn't how things are supposed to work. It's just a way of rendering elections meaningless."

 

The debate has devolved to a point where in one post you accuse Republicans of fascism, yet in your second lament that Republicans are engaging in

"smear campaigns accusing the majority party of being socialist, of being fascist"

I'd like to take this debate back down to a reasonable level please.

 

The word "fascism" unfortunately became a substance-free, multi-purpose curse in our political discourse many years ago, but unlike the clowns who usually throw it around (including those who use it in connection to the Obama administration), I know what it means, and know where its appropriate, and a great deal of what the Bush administration did, when it came to their War On Terror [tm], falls neatly--and inescapably--into that category. My use of it is not general--it's narrow and limited to where its appropriate--and can't, in any sense, be equated with the sort of clownish uses of it I condemned (and have always condemned).

the faux crisis

The word "fascism" unfortunately became a substance-free, multi-purpose curse in our political discourse many years ago, but unlike the clowns who usually throw it around (including those who use it in connection to the Obama administration), I know what it means, and know where its appropriate, and a great deal of what the Bush administration did, when it came to their War On Terror [tm], falls neatly--and inescapably--into that category.

Oh this is complete nonsense.  You are using it as a smear, plain and simple.  "Bush = fascist" is right up there with "Bush = Hitler" and "Bush = baby killer".  Fascism is a left-wing union of socialism and nationalism.  Besides, I guess I must have missed the time when Bush disregarded the courts and did what he wanted anyway, or canceled elections and installed himself dictator for life.

Further, one big reason why I, and many others, regard you as launching partisan attacks rather than engaging in substantive discussion, is that when you talk about the so-called "crisis of American democracy", you are discussing exclusively things that Republicans do.  Can Democrats not do anything to harm democracy?  When Democrats launched multi-million dollar efforts to kill Bush's Social Security reform plan in 2005, even though Republicans were in the majority, was that not anti-democratic?  Where is your outrage?  It didn't make it that far, but I'm willing to bet Senate Democrats would have filibustered that bill to death, and you would have been supportive of that filibuster.  Where is your outrage at Democrats blocking the majority there?  When you start discussing ways in which Democrats, or liberals generally, have contributed to a "crisis of American democracy", then I may start to believe you.

I don't begrudge partisans their partisanship. What I find extremely objectionable is meritless partisanship, the kind that isn't rooted in reality.

Oh how convenient - you're the arbiter of what constitutes "reality".  Unsurprisingly, all of your examples of "meritless partisanship" just happen to be conservative examples.  Where is your condemnation of "meritless partisanship" from the left?  Or is there such a thing in your view?

And fundamentally, you miss the point of the filibuster, and of the Senate generally.  The federal government is not supposed to be based exclusively on a majoritarian principle.  It never was.  The supposed "crisis of American democracy" is a complete fiction invented by those on the left who want to blame the Democrats' failure to get anything done last year - a year in which, except for the stimulus bill, they didn't need any Republican vote for ANYTHING - on the Republicans.  If Harry Reid had just stuck to Obama's August deadline, we would not even be discussing this so-called "crisis" that, strangely, now demands our urgent attention, only AFTER the election of Scott Brown to kill the health care bill.  It is always the same story - when liberals get their way, it's hailed as a visionary triumph of liberalism; but when liberals don't get their way, it's blamed on "Republicans" or "American democracy" generally, never as a rejection of liberal ideas. 

There is no crisis.  There is no problem with the filibuster.  The system is working as intended.  Big, huge, far-reaching pieces of legislation require supermajority support, same as always, and CERTAINLY that is the case for the health care bill.  Seriously - in purely pragmatic terms, what do moderate retiring Republican Senators like Voinovich or Bond have to lose by voting with the Democrats?  Maybe they're not not voting with the Democrats not out of some sort of partisan loyalty (they have no partisan reason to be loyal at this point), but because the Democrats' bill really is too far to the left for even moderate Republicans to support?  OH NO, that can't be it!  They are not "based in reality"!  They're creating a "CRISIS!!!!!!" by their pure mindless partisanship!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!elventy!!!!!!  It's never the case that Democrats engaged in huge liberal overreach!  It's always those nasty mean RethugliKKKans and their nasty mean partisanship!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  So please, spare me your sermons on why the filibuster needs to be "reformed".

Oh, incidentally, Republicans NEVER proposed abolishing the filibuster entirely.  Some Republicans only proposed abolishing it for the purpose of judicial appointments.  That's all.  So there is nothing inherently hypocritical in opposing filibusters in one situation but supporting them in another.  And, keep in mind, THAT so-called "crisis" was resolved when other Republicans reached across the aisle and joined with Democrats in the so-called "Gang of 14".  Do Republicans get props from you on that score?