The Case For Filibustering
Political scientist Gregory Koger has a forthcoming book on the filibuster which his publicist was kind enough to send me and which I can already recommend very highly. But over at the Monkey Cage, he offers up the cliff notes version of his conclusion. Not to give too much away, but the title is "The Case for Filibustering; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mitch McConnell."
I'm unconvinced. For instance, Koger notes that "just because one side’s got more votes, that doesn’t make its position true. In this country, ending slavery, enfranchising women, and adopting federal minimum wage were all once minority positions." That completely correct -- but the retention of the filibuster makes it more difficult to end such injustices, not less.
Elsewhere, he praises the capacity of the filibuster to ensure lengthy deliberation.
In our polarized polity, it is easy to forget that legislators are more than voting machines with “D” or “R” stamped on their foreheads. In fact, a healthy legislature does more than vote. Its members talk, and propose alternatives, and acknowledge each other’s views. In doing so they can improve legislation, represent their constituents, and explain their behavior to each other and to the nation.
But we're not talking about a "healthy legislature." At least on the polarizing issues where the filibuster comes into play, legislators really are little more "than voting machines with 'D' or 'R' stamped on their foreheads." That was the lesson most recently of the Gang of Six, but more broadly, of the past 15 years. A chamber built for cooperation cannot function in an era of polarization. And that's the relevant choice: a legislature that does function, or one that doesn't. A "healthy legislature" isn't on the table.
Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
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