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Get Rid of the Filibuster!!!

I put the exclamation points in, so that some necessary people in office might somehow see it. But of course they are busy doing whatever they do.

It is either eliminate the filibuster, or lose the democracy. Maybe it wasn’t always the choice; maybe it didn’t have to be this way; but it is now. Things change.

The filibuster is not in the Constitution. It was invented in the Senate so that a minority of senators could keep a bill from being voted on. It exists in the Senate because there is no rule limiting the amount of debate. The House of Representatives has rules about how long a member can speak, so there is no filibuster.

It used to be that to filibuster, a senator had to keep talking, but that changed.; now all they have to do is invoke it, and then if the other side cannot muster 60 votes for cloture, the bill never comes to the floor. Surely that was never what the Founders intended. The filibuster has been used for various goals, often to stop Civil Rights legislation. The number of filibusters has greatly increased in the last 30 years. The rules on the filibuster could be changed at any time by Senate vote.

The filibuster has become the predominant technique of Republicans who want to block all Democratic legislation. All they need is 41 senators not to vote for cloture, and every Democratic bill fails to even get to the floor for vote. The nature of our representation system, where every state gets two senators, allows small states to control things. There are enough rigidly Red states which have two right-wing Republican senators, to get to 41, and thus make it impossible for Democrats to pass any legislation; the exception being financial bills, where there is Reconciliation. Everything else fails now.

Republicans are not a party which wants to write laws on the federal level. They want Republican-run states to enact laws banning abortion, or coming as close as they can; laws making it nearly impossible for Democrats in big cities to vote; laws forcing textbooks to teach religion as being equally as valid as science in explaining the natural world. They want a Supreme Court which will allow them to make these laws. They worked for decades to achieve that. They view the Senate as a place where well-paid people get to make speeches and strut around, not as a place to make any laws. That is one reason why they take so many vacations.

So the states are passing horrible voting laws, which are beyond obviously designed to guarantee that the Republicans win elections and electoral votes in all but very Blue states. And the laws even say that if somehow the Republicans do not win, the state legislature controlled by Republicans can overturn that result. This all is very clear.

So Democrats in the House have passed H.R.1, designed to protect the right to vote, something which Republicans do not believe in, for anyone who is not them. And it now goes to the Senate, where Republicans will filibuster. And Democrats do not have 60 votes to stop the filibuster.

So the only hope to save the right to vote, and the democracy, is to get rid of the filibuster. Do not do that, and our side loses, maybe forever. It is that simple.

The arguments against getting rid of the filibuster? None, really. Some ridiculous concept of “protecting the rights of the minority in the Senate”? The filibuster is not protecting the minority. it is letting the minority control the Senate. Forty-one Republican senators stop every bill from getting through, even though the Democrats control the Presidency, the House and the Senate. Not by much in the legislative branch, but they do. But not for long, if they do not get rid of the filibuster with regard to H.R. 1. This is not debatable, this is certainty. Do not pass the voting bill, and the Republicans will win the House and probably the Senate, too, and no bill equivalent to H.R. 1 will ever be passed.

One wonders why this is not beyond obvious. Senators Manchin and Sinema want to keep the filibuster, because….? It is a charming part of the past, like cotillions, or the Charleston? In reality, it will be as charming as plantations, and with a similar effect. They are worried that if Republicans gain the Senate majority, the Democrats will lose the power to filibuster? They will lose it anyway, because the Republicans will get rid of it, once they have guaranteed their majority. They have no compunction whatsoever about doing that.

Not only that, but Sinema will lose her Senate seat. Manchin may not, but his choices will be either to become a Republican and caucus with Hawley and Blackburn, or be on the minority side of the aisle until he retires, to be replaced by a Republican. So tell me again, Joe and Kristin, why is it that you want to save the filibuster?

I try to think of analogies, and it is hard. If people with axes and guns are trying to batter down the door to your house, and you want to call the police, and your significant other says, “If we call the police, they might call us up all the time to contribute to the Police Fund, and that would be irritating, so let’s do nothing.”

Someone is trying to run you over with a truck, as you stand in the crosswalk island, and you do not want to run to the sidewalk and into the open doors of a store, because the light is flashing red, and you feel like you have to respect the precedent.

Probably you can think of better ones, but it is hard to even imagine such inane logic. Only Democrats, at least a few of them, would think like that. How about, you are taking a tea break in the trenches of World War I. and the enemy starts firing at you, but you do not want to shoot back, because you always take tea at that time, and it would be declasse to fight back?

There are Greek and Shakespearean plays where characters somehow make a dreadful decision which destroys themselves or their side, and yet will not listen to rational arguments as to why they should not do it. Or will not do the thing which would save them, even though people are begging them to. Sometimes these plays are based on known history; sometimes the playwright tries to imagine what rationales these people might have come up with to keep them so intransigent in the face of all the counterarguments and facts.

Maybe someone will write a play about this. “How the Democracy Was Lost.” People will read or see it and scarcely believe it. Or there will be no such play, because the Republicans who by that time will control everything, will not allow it to be produced., or will successfully purvey their own narrative which makes them the heroes of the new totalitarian reality.

I have watched all of this for years; and I know what the Republicans are, and it is even worse than under Nixon, or Bush/Cheney/Delay. And I know how Democrats mostly mean well, and keep trying to attribute general decency to the opposing party; and how they simply refuse to realize and accept the depth of their perfidy and depravity. But this may beggar the rest of it.

Your entire group is being pushed off a cliff, and it is possible for you to escape, and people are yelling at you to run out of the procession to doom, to safety, but you allow yourselves to be pushed, out of good manners, or not wanting to encourage anyone else to ever break out of a line that you somehow may be in charge of, after you have fallen off the cliff. Is that the elusive metaphor I am looking for? Should we even need a metaphor for this deliberate self-destruction?

I write a good deal about this issue, but it is deserving of it. Passing H.R.1 will not fully protect the right to vote, or unquestionably save the democracy, but it will give us a chance. And the only way to pass it is to get rid of the filibuster. It is certainly a simple calculation to make, the only winning move left on the table. So why is it such a struggle to get a couple of Democratic senators to make?

One last metaphor. You are having a dream, that you are in a serial called “The Perils of Democracy.’ The villain, Snidely Whiplash, or Black Bart, or Oilcan Harry (he has many disguises and avatars) has tied you to the railroad tracks. You hear the sound of the train approaching, as he laughs. You look, and you see that the engineers of the train are Manchin and Sinema. Do they stop at the last moment? Do they even see you?

“Do I wake or sleep?” (John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale,” 1819).