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April 11, 2005

Comments

I think Mark Schmitt's point is exactly right. And yours supports it.

Many of the horrors that the Republicans have passed and want to pass are irrevocable.
They cannot be undone and so the filibuster is the only way we can stop them in the future. Undoing legislation will take control of all 3 branchs of government. Something that may not happen in the near future. Indeed the Republican's control of the 3 branches may be self perpetuating.

In this case past is not prologue.

And I think your point is supportive of Mark Schmitt's point that the filibuster will be a weapon of the partisan minority. It may be one of the few the minority may have left at its disposal.

"Thus, whereas in the past the filibuster was primarily used by a bi-partisan ideological minority, today an ideological minority in Congress is the same as a partisan minority.  That being the case, it makes the filibuster less of a threat to the unity of the majority party, as supporters of a filibuster are less likely than ever to come from within their ranks."

This is all true. But, while the filibuster is no longer a threat to the unity of the majority party, it's still an identical threat to the ability of the majority party to legislate.

In other words, I'm not sure I see the significance of this shift within the larger discussion over the value of maintaining the filibuster moving forward.

Mark's comments on the tendency of Republican legislative initiatives to be irreversible was a good one -- it's been one of my complaints for a long time. While the legislation can sometimes be undone, the damage usually can't. Democrats, generally, are a party of pilot programs, which is more than a little bit ironic given the supposed Republican penchant for federalism, laboratories of democracy, and whatnot.

Your other point, I think, goes hand-in-hand with one that I've made in passing to pro-nuclear option Republicans from time to time. The recent historical efforts to end or curtail the filibuster have always been bipartisan affairs. That goes both to your point that the partisan divide is now sharper than ever, and possibly to the point that "what might have been" absent the filibuster may have nothing to do with what will be in a future without one.

I believe many posters here are missing the important fact that with an electorate almost equally divided 50-50, we really do not know how strong the wall of separation between these two ideological camps is!

Lets me give two hypotheticals:

1. The country has a 75% to 25% split in ideological beliefs. In this case, doing away with the filibuster means little because extreme legislation coming out of such a split would be likely wholeheartedly supported by the vast majority!

2. The country is split 50% to 50% in ideological beliefs. In this case, doing away with the filibuster means plenty because now any extreme legislation coming out of such a split would be only supported by at most 50% and likely some of these would not be that extreme. The next election may well show a new alignment.

The key discussion with the close electorate split of today should once again be the size and variability of the swing voters. In this 50-50 split, is the wall between ideologies absolute, strong, and high, or is there a sizeable group in the "barely in control majority camp" that might turn on this "majority" because of their high handed, extreme legislative actions? This is a critical question, and one that all but fanatics would consider carefully in a closely divided nation before going down any nuclear option.

My response is over at my blog here.

"Your other point, I think, goes hand-in-hand with one that I've made in passing to pro-nuclear option Republicans from time to time. The recent historical efforts to end or curtail the filibuster have always been bipartisan affairs."

It's worth noting how just how tied the nuclear option is to efforts to please the GOP base. Specifically, we wouldn't be discussing this issue if Bill Frist weren't planning on running the '08 Presidential primaries.

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And part of the beauty of the possibility of a compromise to eliminate the filibuster on all legislation is that it would be a bipartisan affair, both because it would involve progressive Dems and loony Goopers, and because it would require the 67 votes necessary to change the rules in the traditional manner.

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