Dean Clough

October 29, 2021

Portico Darwin: The Filibuster is Eating Democracy

What with Arthur and Mrs. Crup in town, it's a miracle I could find the time or sobriety to write this, but I did (or at least I'm telling myself that).  The lovely Mrs. Crup has, as always, exquisite taste in clothing.


Although I cannot take credit for much of today's post:  I borrowed a lot of it from Joe Scarborough's current podcast, and an interview he had with Lawrence O'Donnell.  They covered a lot of topics, but I really appreciated - especially now - what O'Donnell said about the US Senate and the parliamentarian parlor trick, the filibuster.  I'll try to summarize his, and my own, thoughts on the matter.  If you'd like some history of the filibuster, read this from Reuters.

(I do want to add I've begun listening to Scarborough's podcast, and I'm impressed by him.  I do not watch "Morning Joe", but his takes are nothing if not rational.  He says his old party, the GOP, is "irredeemable".  He also had Michael Stipe and Mike Mills on his second-to-last podcast.  Based on that and other comments, this Floridian Christian Reagan (former) Republican knows his stuff - and music.  I would consider him for President.)

First, I agree with both O'Donnell and Joe Scarborough that the filibuster may have made sense in less polarized times.  As recently as the Clinton administration, there were Democratic senators in places like Louisiana, Alabama, and Nebraska, so it was possible to build coalitions across states with divergent interests and muster the 60 votes necessary to move things forward in a filibuster-enabled Senate.

But that was then, and this is now.  O'Donnell made the salient point that he'd be more supportive of the filibuster if the founders hadn't made the US Senate undemocratic enough already.  Think of it:  by giving each state 2 senators, those two can cancel each other out, and thus nothing moves. 

And then layer on the virulent polarization and partisanship, and you have Mitch McConnell and Merrick Garland, and Obama passing zero legislation in his last 6 years in office.  Say what you will, but that's not right or good for the country, regardless of your political stance.

So we now have the ultimate filibuster environment, only one of which being in the Constitution:  2 senators per state, combined with a 60 vote threshold to pass anything, in a hyper-partisan environment.   This is miles away away from democracy.  Angus King, the independent senator from Maine, estimated that just 22 - 24% of the American population have an effective veto over all legislation.  Think of it:  despite 75% of the country mostly in agreement over things like real action on climate change and rational gun laws, we get nothing.

In the podcast, it is pointed out we have relatively healthy democracies at the state and local levels - there is no such thing as The Electoral College in any state, and we even have ranked-choice voting in some.  But at the Federal level?  We have 2 senators representing California, the 7th largest economy in the world, and 4 for the Dakotas, which are the state economical equivalent to Baltic Avenue in a game of Monopoly.

But:  there will be no change soon to The Electoral College or the apportionment of senators.  Either or both would require a Constitutional amendment, and if we can't agree on masks . . . it's not happening.

So that's why the filibuster should now be eliminated, in its entirety.  Make 51 votes - a simple majority - to pass legislation be the threshold in the US Senate.  Let the chips fall where they may if/when the Republicans are in charge again. 

But, if the Republicans retake the Senate:  would they help overturn the results of a free and fair election given the opportunity to do so, via the same simple majority?  It shows the depths to which we've fallen as a nation that that's even a question.

Pretty quiet out there, although there was some unfortunate controversy - still - regarding these types of National Park facilities. 


Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.

Although Mrs. Costello meant it in a slightly different way, I like the title of this lovely album for today's topic.  Here, with her silky-smooth jazz vocals and top-flight piano playing, is Diana Krall and "From This Moment On".


About Dean Clough

Plans To Enjoy Life.