As readers might guess, I get a lot of junk mail from Democrats asking me to save America by giving them money (although some are worth giving to). The newest sales pitch is to raise the specter of Republicans being able to filibuster. For instance, Senate candidate and current congressman Paul Hodes of New Hampshire (who isn’t such a bad Dem–he’s not a Blue Dog) writes in a flyer, “1 seat is all the Republicans need to seize filibuster power. If they succeed, the change Americans voted for last year could be doomed.”
While mentioning this to a couple of longtime readers, I noted that the Democrats seem perfectly capable of filibustering decent legislation all by their wee lonesomes: why do we need keep Democrats? We have them, and still can’t pass good legislation.
It seems I’m not the only one who thinks this. Tom Geoghegan writes:
This past spring, Senator Claire McCaskill wrote to me asking for $50 to help elect more Democrats, so we could have a filibuster-proof Senate. Now that Al Franken has finally been declared the sixtieth Democratic senator, her plea may seem moot. But even with Franken in office, we don’t have a filibuster-proof Senate. To get to sixty on the Democratic side, we’ll still have to cut deals with Democrats like Max Baucus, Ben Nelson and others who cat around as Blue Dogs from vote to vote. Whether or not Senator Arlen Specter is a Democrat, the real Democrats will still have to cut the same deals to get sixty votes….
“But just wait till 2010, when we get sixty-two or sixty-three Democrats.” I’m sure that’s what Senator McCaskill would tell me. “So come on, kick in.” But Senator, where will they come from? They could come from bloody border states like yours (Missouri), or from deep inside the South. The problem with the filibuster is not so much that it puts Republicans in control but that it puts senators from conservative regions like the South, the border states and the Great Plains in control. The only true filibuster-proof Senate would be a majority that would be proof against those regions.
And he notes that there’s a very simple solution to this TERRIBLE ZOMG!!!! problem:
Maybe we loyal Dems should start sending postcards like the following: “Dear Senator: Why do you keep asking for my money? You’ve already got the fifty-one votes you need to get rid of the filibuster rule.” It’s true–McCaskill and her colleagues could get rid of it tomorrow. Then we really would have a Democratic Senate, like our Democratic House.
She won’t. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which paid for her appeal, won’t. They use the filibuster threat to hit us up for money. And as long as they do, you and I will keep on kicking in for a “filibuster-proof” Senate, which, with or without Franken, will never exist. Every Obama initiative will teeter around sixty, only the deal-cutting will go on deeper in the back rooms and be less transparent than before.
The only good thing about the filibuster is that the word is derived from the Dutch word for pirate. Other than that, abolish it. And don’t tell me how it helps progressives: other than stopping one Bush federal court appointee, Democrats never use it for anything good.
I’m thinking that, regardless of how healthcare turns out, this needs to be the next battle that progressives fight.