The Immortal Filibuster

Amid all the Progressive wailing and conservative faux victory laps, last week’s “filibuster reform” came out pretty much as I had expected it.

Our Federal legislative bodies on Capitol Hill continue to stick pretty close to what the Eighteenth Century powdered wig framers had intended.  As a moderating influence to that rabble called the House of Representatives, the Senate is, by design, the “adult in the room.”  Some rabble-rousers, such as Sen. Rand “Ayn Rand necro fetish” Paul (R-Ky.) occasionally slip in to provide some proportional representation mob rule mayhem, but he’s the exception to the rule. Tossing old eggs and rotten veg is supposed to be the province of lower parliamentary bodies.

Little changes quickly or broadly in the deliberative upper chamber. It’s supposed to be the “go slow” counter to the “torches and pitchforks” rabble in the lower House. Despite occasional “mad uncle” outbursts by geriatrics such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), the Senate, by character, is not supposed to radically alter its processes quickly.

I would have indeed preferred a return to the “Talking Filibuster,” and not just because Frank Capra’s Mr Smith Goes To Washington is a fave flick. Republicans have grossly abused the Senate rules, including the filibuster, in recent years, and Americans have, in return, ranked its’ pols barely above gonorrhea in popularity as a result.

Why then did Majority Leader Harry Reid and unidentified senior Democratic senators seem to “go limp” on reform?  As with broadswords of many centuries past, the filibuster can and does “cut both ways.” The senior dissenting members can remember when they weren’t the party in control. As infuriating as the Republican opposition has been pouring SuperGlue into the gears on a recurring basis, let’s remember when patience and moderation saved our bacon.

It wasn’t that long ago when we rushed off to a costly war in Iraq. A trillion dollars and over 4,000 lives lost later, we continue to pay a terrible toll for that rush to judgment misadventure. Those alleged “weapons of mass destruction” Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, et ux screamed about still are winning that pricy game of undetected “hide and seek.”  Starting conflicts is easy, being an occupying power and getting out of a continuing morass isn’t.  Remember Vietnam?

A woman’s right to reproductive freedom wasn’t won forty years ago in the landmark Roe v. Wade. The zygote zombies didn’t try and roll back the tide of progress just last week. It was a Democratic filibuster threat that maintained a fundamental liberty when a bunch of old men wanted to experience the joys of ovulation for all of us. The tactic was not daily fare, though.

Despite weeping Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Oh.) accusing Democrats of wanting to sweep the “Party of No” into the dustbin of history, the GOP isn’t likely to expire no matter how often they shoot themselves in the foot. The framers never anticipated filibuster paralysis as a continuing bill of fare, despite Republican addiction to the tactic. Several states want to drug test every fiber of the social safety net, but there’s no peeing in the bottle among members of the “Party of Lincoln Navigator SUV.” In 1933 Germany, those pesky dissenters in the Reichstag were “streamlined” into arrest, so as not to interfere with the ascendancy of National Socialism. History records how well that worked out.

There was no magic Band-Aid to Senate inaction last week, but it remains to be seen how the rules change will work out. Congress in general, and the Senate, in particular, is traditionally an evolving beastie.

We’re in this for the long haul.