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Democracy of Convenience

All of a sudden, a demand for majoritarian democracy is in full throttle. The legislative filibuster has conveniently become the boogie man for most Democrats. They reference Jim Crow and the legislative filibuster’s history of obstructing civil rights legislation as their justification. If that is where the moral objection lies, why is it selectively and opportunistically called for by Democrats? Where were these calls by Democrats during the Trump administration? Was it not a Jim Crow relic in 2017? Were Republicans and Democrats alike racists for not abolishing it then?

If Democrats did not control the Senate, there would not be a single suggestion of abolishing or even reforming the filibuster. The desire to do so is now solely based on possessing a technical majority in a 50-50 Senate where Vice President Harris would cast the tie-breaking vote. Ideally, enabling Democrats to push aside Republicans and focus deliberation and debate exclusively among Democrats. 

letter to Senate leadership in 2017 requested then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to preserve the 60-vote legislative threshold for legislation, also known as the legislative filibuster. U.S. Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Chris Coons of Delaware lead the charge on the effort. The letter was endorsed by 61 Senators including prominent advocates of abolishing the filibuster presently, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, to name a few. So what could have possibly changed?

In 2013 Harry Reid launched the opening salvo in the war against the filibuster to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for confirming federal judicial nominees and executive-office appointments. Advancing to confirmation would now only require a simple majority vote. Supreme Court nominations were unaffected. That was until Mr. McConnell decided to fight fire with fire and eliminate the 60-vote threshold for confirming Supreme Court nominations.  

Mr. McConnell has been far from innocent in his contributions to chipping away at the filibuster, but it is worth noting his opposition to eliminating the legislative filibuster in 2017. Despite Then-President Trump’s persistent calls to do so, Mr. McConnell ultimately refused.

Mr. Trump frequently attacks Mr. McConnell’s intelligence during various interviews for upholding the legislative filibuster, but Trump’s hypocrisy looms large on his credibility.

Mr. Trump’s opportunistic disdain for the filibuster is a common bond shared with most Democrats. So when will Mr. Trump eventually host his abolish the filibuster rally? I am sure all his loyal supporters will be on board when it serves their immediate interests. In June, Trump praised Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia for his opposition to eliminating the filibuster as “doing the right thing” in an interview with Fox Business. However, maintaining consistency is unnecessary as politics has long ceased to be one of authenticity. Opportunity supersedes principle and diminishes sincerity.

Only if there was an ounce of sincerity behind advocating abolishing the filibuster, it is no coincidence that it is only a relevant issue when convenient. It is not a genuinely held belief that the objective is to create a more democratic governing process—nothing more than a strategic maneuver to avoid political roadblocks to accomplish a partisan agenda. The at the moment, Armageddon, if we do not act immediately routine, is transparent to anyone willing to open their eyes. It is understandable to be frustrated by political obstruction and posturing while attempting to accomplish a promised agenda, but the lack of consistency is nothing short of hypocrisy. Political expediency is never a justification for altering Senate protocol.

Assuming the legislative filibuster is not abolished beforehand, if Democrats lose control of the Senate following the 2022 midterm elections, all this talk about abolishing the filibuster disappears. Its ties to obstruction and Jim Crow will be a distant memory. While Mr. Schumer has not blatantly endorsed abolishing the filibuster, he has stated nothing is off the table. Abolishing the filibuster will not only be off the table in 2023 but hidden in the attic.

Image Credit: “US Capitol” by keithreifsnyder is licensed under CC BY 2.0


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