Thursday, November 11, 2004


What about the values and traditions of our democracy?

Frist to dismantle the democratic tradition of the filibuster

The Senate is considered the greatest deliberative body in the World. It's a truly painful concept if you job, like mine, requires you to pay close attention to what's going on, but it's role is critical to the checks and balances that are fundamental to our democracy. All states are equal in the Senate, regardless of population, state GDP, or size. It ensures that the worst instincts of the majority are tempered by unlimited debate and the ability of any Senator to stop a bill by a non-stop oratory. Of course, no one does the Mr. Smith goes to Washington speeches anymore, they merely threaten a filibuster and that triggers a cloture vote. To end the 'debate' a 60 vote majority must agree. This is a strong incentive to encourage consensus. Unfortunately, Senator Frist doesn't think that the GOP's 55 seat majority is good enough, so he's looking to scrap this important tradition. That tells me two things, first is that there is no interest in bipartisanship in the new Senate, and second, Frist is preparing to launch an agenda that 49% of American's probably don't want. One of the reasons the US has had a long history of peaceful political progress is that the filibuster and power of individual Senators has served as a moderating factor on the urges of the majority. By eliminating it, Frist is telling 49% of the public to go to hell.

We've heard alot about 'tradition' and 'values', but if Frist follows through with his threat, then he's really thumbing his nose at important traditions and values of our democracy. Besides, if his agenda is the will of the people, then mobilized voters should be able to peel off a mere five conservative democratic votes in the new senate on key issues.

Reinforced by that very cool history lesson a post back, this is very important piece of news I didn't know. I would be interested in knowing how successful Frist is likely to be. Personally, I think it is one of the better techniques as well, driving a need something a bit more than a simple majority, which as you said, tempers "the worst instincts of the majority." Great post, Elephant.
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