Friday, December 11, 2009

Keep the Filibuster; or, Matthew Yglesias Needs to Respect Minority Rights

You know, leftists are supposed to be all about protecting the disadvantaged and downtrodden in society against those great ("racist", "oppressive") institutional forces that threaten minority interests. I mean, isn't that one of the defining characteristics of one who professes to be "progressive"?

Well, of course, but it's all a lie, an ideological scam, which when revealed indicates the left's sheer lust for power to ram down a totalitarian program of radical policy engineering and social "justice."

I've noticed this recently with the scheming among radicals like Ezra Klein to lobby for an end to the filibuster, the one thing that's saving the country right now from the healthcare monstrosity that's set to bankrupt the country and destroy the old-age contract protecting our loved ones.

Matthew Yglesias is especially bad. I know, I've written about him many times, excoriating him for his extreme views, especially on foreign policy. I wrote a post previouisly pointing to the same kind of Yglesias extremism on congressional checks and balances. See, "
Matthew Yglesias Equates GOP Filibusters With First-Degree Murder."

Well the dude's at it again, quoting Stephen Pearlstein in attacking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a "bad man" and a "charmless and shameless hypocrite" who "will use lies, threats and all manner of parliamentary subterfuge to obstruct the president’s programs."

The post is titled, "
Ungovernable America," and Yglesias concludes with his own comments:

We’re suffering from an incoherent institutional set-up in the senate. You can have a system in which a defeated minority still gets a share of governing authority and participates constructively in the victorious majority’s governing agenda, shaping policy around the margins in ways more to their liking. Or you can have a system in which a defeated minority rejects the majority’s governing agenda out of hand, seeks opening for attack, and hopes that failure on the part of the majority will bring them to power. But right now we have both simultaneously. It’s a system in which the minority benefits if the government fails, and the minority has the power to ensure failure. It’s insane, and it needs to be changed.
Actually, I guess one practically needs to be sorry about this nowadays, but I'm one to invest some belief in the Founders that their notions of establishing institutional safeguards is essential in a constitutional regime; and that these checks protect the rights of minorities, both numerical, and racial/ethic/identity minorities. Ezra Klein's been arguing that recent trends in the filibuster are unprecedented in their obstructive effects, and such arguments are being forwarded to advance the Democratic case for the abolition of the rule. It's a bad idea, no matter who's in power, because parties come and go ... it's the regime that stays for the duration, protecting freedom.

Anyway, I just found this editorial from 2005, when the GOP held the Senate majority. Matthew Yglesias ought to read it. From Michael Gerhardt Larry Kramer, at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "
Protect Our Rights, Keep the Filibuster":

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist soon may try to change the rules governing the filibuster. Designed to end the Democrats' filibuster against a handful of President Bush's judicial nominations, "the nuclear option" is unwise, unprincipled and contrary to our long-standing constitutional tradition. The practice of engaging in extended debate has been a feature of the Senate since its earliest days. Almost a century ago, the Senate, acting on the basis of its authority spelled out in the Constitution, formalized that practice in Rule XXII. This rule requires two-thirds of the Senate to end a filibuster of a motion to amend a Senate rule and three-fifths of the Senate to end a filibuster against any other legislative business.

Rule XXII's requirements give a substantial minority within the Senate a significant voice on the propriety of proposed Senate action. Because the Senate comprises two senators from each state the senators supporting a filibuster may represent more than one-half of the population of the United States. Thus, through rules making it difficult to end a filibuster, the Senate has sensibly provided a way of defending minority rights.

In the debate over judicial nominations, some have complained that a filibuster prevents an up or down vote. But this is not unusual. Given its express mandate to adopt its own rules, the Senate has relied on a variety of practices to be resolved without formal up-or-down votes on the Senate floor. Familiar examples include unanimous consent rules, holding legislation or nominations in committee (either by committee vote or inaction), and, of course, the filibuster.

Frist's proposal represents the first time in the history of the United States that the Senate has changed its internal rules of governance without following its rules for amending its rules. The Senate's own precedents unequivocally establish the impropriety of such an action. On at least three separate occasions, the Senate has expressly rejected the argument that a simple majority has the authority claimed by the proponents of the pending proposal. It would be nothing less than a cynical manipulation of well-established Senate rules in order to gain partisan advantage ....

Like similar practices, the filibuster has played an important and legitimate role in Senate history. Most fundamentally, it helps protect the nation against the most serious danger faced by a democracy -- permanent "capture" by a faction that, for a moment, has gained control over the three branches of government.

Respect for the filibuster -- and for its essential function in maintaining long-term stability and respect for minority interests -- is an integral part of American democracy. To set it aside out of impatience, frustration or arrogance would be a profound disservice to the nation.


JSF said...

The Left suffer from a case of "situational ethics,"

Filibusters of Bush nominees, but none for Obama? Heh. What comes around, goes around.

repsac3 said...

But JSF... Do you not feel the same about the "situational ethics" of those folks the right (Frist, for example) who wanted to change the rules of the filibuster when it suited them?

Hypocrisy is a two way street, sir. The tactics that the right complained about when they were in power (& in some cases, sought to change to protect themselves) are the ones they're using and justifying now. And yes, the tactics the left used when in the minority are the ones they bitch about in the majority...

I think those "situational ethics" are the nature of partisan politics, and there are far too few among our elected reps who stay ideologically pure and intellectually honest.

I'd never want to get rid of the filibuster, but I do think it should've remained as hard to employ (think Mr Smith Goes to Washington) as it is to defeat. It was never meant to be used quite so routinely as it has been for the last 10-20 years or so...

SR said...

my take on this at 0700 this morning:

gotcha linked up