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Let Republicans Kill the Filibuster

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Let Republicans Kill the Filibuster

by Eric Ferguson on April 7, 2017

Republicans chose to use the “nuclear option” and kill the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. Good. In the short term it lets a extreme right winger sit for life on the Supreme Court to be essentially another Antonin Scalia, and the Republicans succeeded in stealing a Supreme Court seat. Apparently conservatives believe in preserving behavioral norms only when they see short term advantage to it.
 
But this is a long term benefit to liberals, not conservatives, as the filibuster has benefited conservatives much more than liberals. Note that I said “liberals” and “conservatives”, not “Democrats” and “Republicans”. As your Republicans friends like to say, when trying to claim Democrats are the real racists, lots of Democrats voted against civil rights way back when: a half truth with a half that explains why killing the filibuster is better for liberals. From the end of Reconstruction until the “Solid South” finished switching which party it was solid for in roughly the 1980’s, both parties had conservative and liberal wings. The most conservative element of American politics was southern white Democrats, also called “dixiecrats”, now called “the Republican base”. Conservatives used the filibuster to block anti-lynching bills. Yes, the filibuster made it hard to do anything about lynching during the first half of the 20th century. The civil rights bills of the 60’s might have passed a decade earlier, but didn’t because they were filibustered by a big enough conservative minority.
 

The reason why filibusters help conservatives more is that they’re useless for getting things done, but great for stopping others from doing anything. Generally, liberals want to change things and conservatives want to stop change. Not always of course, but notice how filibusters have been used to block liberal legislation and nominees a clear majority of the time.
 
Civil rights used to be the main target of filibusters, but of course the filibuster was why single-payer health care in the form of Medicare was restricted to senior citizens. Liberals hoped it would be expanded to younger people. That dream is still at the bills-that-will-never-get-a-hearing stage. Most recently, the filibuster is why the public option was cut from health care reform in 2010. It’s also why no significant immigration reform has happened since the 1980’s. In 1994, Republicans pioneered the strategy of total obstruction to deny a president any political victories, and the voters rewarded them with a wave election and control of both houses of Congress. It was a preview of the total obstruction they used against Obama, filibustering even bills and nominations they intended to support on final passage because they were right that if things were screwed up, voters would blame the president and the president’s party rather than sort through who actually did what.
 
So losing the filibuster is going to suck in terms of judicial appointments especially, and despite Republican dysfunction on replacing Obamacare, some really terrible legislation will get passed. Someday though, Democrats will regain the Senate, and we’re going to be really glad the filibuster is gone: not next year, since almost all the seats up for election are already held by Democrats (another reason we should focus on gubernatorial races), but 2020 is looking hopeful.

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