In 2005 the GOOP controlled Senate got tired of minority use of the filibuster to halt The Moron George W. Busch’s appointment of incompetents and fascists to the courts and executive agencies. The GOOP maintained that the filibuster was an evil force that thwarted the will of the people and obstructed the right of the elected majority to govern. The GOOP thus proposed its elimination. In those more innocent times, a compromise was reached. Democrats agreed to go easy on GOOP judicial nominees and the GOOP, with a sagacious eye to the future, left the filibuster intact.
Now, of course, the GOOP believes that ending the filibuster rule is a violation of the First Amendment and the gateway to demagoguery. The GOOP is not usually right about anything, but it was right the first time about the filibuster. It does thwart the will of the people and obstruct the right of the majority to govern. The Democrats, always slow on the uptake, were stupid to fight GOOP change in 2005 when they were obviously on the edge of an election in which they would regain Senate control. They should have let the GOOP change the rules and take the heat for doing so.
Most of what the average American knows about history comes from school texts which substitute propaganda for truth. The filibuster, we have always been told, ensures debate and careful consideration of the issues and is an essential tool used by the Senate to fulfill its role as the “deliberative” body politic. From the perspective of the masses, it’s all about defense of the little guy, as in every policy wonk’s favorite movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Neither case is vaguely close to the truth.
The filibuster has never been available to the little guy, and no hero has ever taken over the Senate floor to defend the masses from anything. Anyone who tried to do so would be pissed on by half a dozen fat cats, tossed down the Capital Building’s marble steps by smart assed punk staffers and buried in lies and bullshit by the Washington Press Corps. Mr. Smith lives only in Hollywood.
As to its role as a deliberative body, history reveals a filibuster dedicated to white supremacy and Southern violence. For the first half of the last century the filibuster was the primary force in keeping black Americans under the rule of the Southern mob. In that time period Southern whites terrorized the black community with random lynchings. These events were often in broad daylight, in public, and well attended by the local populace. Families brought picnic lunches and children enjoyed the spectacle of the torture and killing of innocents. (Torture, including beatings, burning, carving an dismembering for the purpose of creating souvenirs was not uncommon. There are cases of families … husbands, wives and children… being lynched together.) State law did nothing. Between 1918 and 1938 federal anti-lynching laws were offered in every Congress. All were defeated by filibuster.
Likewise, civil rights legislation, which was first introduced in Congress in 1948, was beaten by filibuster each year until 1964, when a 57-day debate was finally broken by a determined Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson.
However, lest I leave the impression that human rights was the only victim of the filibuster, note that filibuster killed the League of Nations and nearly killed the original Glass-Steagall Act, which for 50 years, until repealed by the GOOP with the complicity of Bill Clinton, prevented the kind of chicanery that led to today’s economic collapse.
In short, the filibuster has never been a friend of freedom or justice or common sense. In today’s environment there is a great deal to be gained by eliminating the filibuster, not least of which is nearly 100 federal judicial appointments, and dozens of executive appointments, that Obama has not been able to make because of GOOP intransigence. (Eliminating the filibuster is a jobs bill.) If Democrats are serious about nominating liberal judges to balance the hundreds of right wing fanatics appointed by Busch, they can only do so by eliminating the filibuster. And potential Supreme Court appointees?