Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Filibuster Revisited, part 1

Early last year, I went a few rounds with Nice Guy Eddie from "In My Humble Opinion" on the subject of the Senate filibuster, him fer it and me agin' it. It started here, then continued here and here, with remarks from both of us spread through the "comments" section of both blogs in the great, totally disorganized manner that would come to mark all of my more involved exchanges with Eddie.

Eddie thought on the subject for a long time. Nearly two years! A ridiculous item on Fox News, reported via Media Matters, inspired him, yesterday, to return to the subject. I've decided to post my reply here, as well as in his comments section. I fear it's rather cursory, but I don't think, for a moment, it will be the last word in the discussion, so I've dubbed it "The Filibuster Revisited, part 1":

(A note: In order to have any idea what's going on, I recommend reading our entire exchange.)

In my second piece on this subject from last year, I ran the same numbers you did, but my results were that, "at present population dispersal, just over 5.6% of the U.S. population, residing in the smallest states (which contain 11% of the total U.S. population), can theoretically elect a sufficient number of Senators (41) to filibuster anything everyone else wants to do." You came up with 2.3%. It's been so long I don't remember exactly how I did my own calculation, but it doesn't really matter--either result supports my larger point.

I also ran the then-current numbers about actual Senate representation: "...at present, Democratic Senators represent 74.9% of the population, while Republican Senators represent 48.7% of the population (there being overlap between states that have mixed Senate delegations). The minority is still running everything."

I pretty much addressed everything you wrote, here, back then. The notion that we will get bad results without a filibuster is a) absolutely true, and b) of absolutely no relevance. One either believes in liberal democracy or one doesn't. If you do, you have to take the good with the bad.

Defending the filibuster necessarily entails defending the abuse of it we've seen since Republicans lost control of congress in 2006, and particularly since 2008. That abuse has literally changed the constitutional order and is, arguably, unconstitutional. More to the point, though, it completely nullifies our elections, rendering them meaningless exercises. This, too, is something one must defend in order to defend the filibuster. In evaluating its potential merits, one has to weigh this--a complete frustration of the democratic process, every day of every week of every year, forever--against the benefit of keeping it around, and in my view (and I think history clearly supports me in this), any alleged benefit is mostly illusory. No counter at all.

I don't see any argument in its favor.



scotterb said...

One alternative would go back to the old filibuster rules, where you actually made people stand there and keep speaking day and night. As it is now the filibuster has become so abused that it is a threat to the proper functioning of democracy.

classicliberal2 said...

It isn't a mere "threat to the proper functioning of democracy"--it has, in fact, entirely prevented the proper functioning of the democratic process.