17 July 2010

This November I will not vote for any U.S. Senate candidates. Instead, I will write in REFORM!

When a minority of 40 Senators can stop the passage of any bill--and, all too often, do so out of pure nihilist malice (disguised under the pretense of 'stopping socialism')--we should demand a change in the rules. The filibuster was never envisioned by the drafters of the Constitution; in fact, it only made its first appearance in 1946.

The filibuster procedure is uniquely injurious to democracy: 40 senators, who may represent as little as 10.08 percent[1] of the national population, can block legislation with the stroke of a pen. (All-night recitations of Shakespeare are no longer required.) The months of sucking up to Ben Nelson and Olympia Snowe during the health care debate were a product of a threatened filibuster. At this moment, we have been waiting for seven weeks for the full Senate to vote on the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, because most Republicans feel icky about gays in the showers and Harry Reid thinks they have a valid point.

Defenders of the filibuster spin magical tales of the 'slow, organic' character of our politics. There is something profoundly conservative and stabilizing about the filibuster, they say, as if Burke and Disraeli had wet dreams about a three-fifths supermajority rule in Westminster. They claim that without the rule, Congress would make too many 'unwise decisions.' As I recall, we do have elections where the people can throw the makers of unwise decisions out.

Paul Krugman wrote a perceptive column on this very issue in February.

51 Senators could reform the rules right now. To let your senators know you want an immediate elimination of the filibuster and anonymous holds, write in REFORM! on your ballot this year.
1. The smallest 20 states by population comprise 10.08 percent of the US population. As for anonymous holds, one man from Wyoming (0.17% of US population) can stop a presidential nomination from advancing.

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