Friday, April 7, 2017

The Filibuster


The Senate yesterday utilized the “nuclear” option and broke the Democrat filibuster over the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Shamelessly disregarding their previous statements and actions, Democrat politicians are now calling the filibuster a cherished part of American democracy.

So many of these same people were around during the administration of George W. Bush when there was an unusually large amount of judicial vacancies caused by Democrat unwillingness to confirm any of Bush’s nominees to the Federal bench. Back in the last year of the Bush administration Senator Chuck Schumer, the current minority leader, had warned Bush to not even consider nominating anyone to the Supreme Court in case a vacancy occurred in his last year.

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008 all these vacancies were now his to fill. But when Republicans used the filibuster to block some nominees, the Democrats invented the “nuclear” option that broke the filibuster and allowed the Senate to confirm the Obama nominees. Now that the Republicans have control of the Senate, and use the same tactic invented by the Democrats, all of a sudden the Republic is in danger.

However, the idea of the filibuster is nowhere to be found in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. The first filibuster only took place in 1837. In fact, I believe that the founding fathers, who were brought up in the British parliamentary system, would have been shocked by the idea that one man or even a minority could impede the will of the majority of the people’s representatives. They would have been even more shocked by the modern version of the filibuster, a kind of “virtual” filibuster where the Senator would not have to actually go through a boring, grueling test of endurance.

Isn’t it ironic that the same politicians and commentators who now bemoan the loss of the filibuster, are the same ones who are also advocating the abolition of the Electoral College, something that has been in the Constitution from the beginning. When it comes to the filibuster, they argue that the votes of 41 Senators count for more than the votes of 59 Senators.  But some dare to call President Trump illegitimate because he did not win a majority of the popular vote even though he won a clear and substantial majority in the Electoral College.

Today, Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate by 52-48. The margin is even greater in the House of Representatives where the Republicans gained the majority in 2010, only two years after President Obama took office. Today, Republicans hold 237 seats in the House, Democrats hold 193, and five seats are currently vacant. In the fifty states there are 33 Republican Governors compared to only 17 Democrats. Republicans now are in the majority in 69 State legislative houses, while Democrats are in the majority in only 30. Can these popular majorities on both the national and state level all be part of some vast right-wing conspiracy?

Perhaps the most famous Senate filibuster in history is a fictional one. In Frank Capra’s famous 1940 film, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, James Stewart played Jefferson Smith, a young, popular local figure, who was appointed by the political machine in his home state to temporarily fill a Senate seat left vacant by the death of the incumbent. However, he soon discovered that the machine was up to no good and took to the Senate floor to conduct a one-man crusade against their nefarious scheme.

Frank Capra made Jefferson Smith a heroic figure, and in doing so he also created a myth that has lasted to the present day. I’ve seen the Capra film many times and the Democrats who now attempt to justify the filibuster bear little resemblance to the character played by Jimmy Stewart. Judge Neil Gorsuch bears a much closer resemblance to Capra’s hero than Chuck Schumer does.


Note: Click on the link above for an excerpt the Capra film, or view the brief video below.

1 comment:

  1. Claire writes from CT:

    Yes, the philosophy is this: when I do it, it is fair, just, and necessary; when you do it, it is unfair, evil, and corrupt.